Ethical Capital and Democracy: The Critical Contributions of Giovanni Baldelli
The Critical Contributions of Giovanni Baldelli
Ethical Capital and Democracy:
The Critical Contributions of Giovanni Baldelli
Eddie J. Girdner, Izmir University, Izmir, Turkey
“…in order to be truly social one has to be anarchist.”
“…in order to be truly anarchist one has to be social.”
Giovanni Baldelli (l914-1986) was born in Milan, worked underground against the Fascist regime, and sought refuge in France. He became an anarchist and presided over the International Anarchist Congress in London in 1958. He later taught at St. Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington, England.
Baldelli’s anarchist thought is grounded in his concept of ethical capital. Starting from this view of human society, he sought to provide a blueprint for a peaceful, non-violent, ethical society, in the absence of the state and politics based on power. Rather, his vision of ethical society is based upon the ethical authority residing in the community. Baldelli laid out his views in his book, Social Anarchism (l971) which was abridged for publication by David Wieck. This paper will briefly consider Baldelli’s sharp critique of existing states and political regimes and consider his vision of the future ethical society, which, he believed, will necessarily be anarchist. He has suggested practical methods and novel institutions which would serve as a springboard for constructing his vision of an ethical society. In this way, he made important contributions to anarchist thought. Significantly, a number of his views are similar to those of Indian political thinkers. Besides the crucial requirement of renunciation of violence, as with Gandhi, he criticizes both statist communism and western capitalist societies based upon governmental power. Here one can find many significant parallels with the writings of Indian Communist, M.N. Roy, the Indian Socialist, Jayaprakash Narayan, and the Gandhian thinker and nationalist, J.B. Kripalani.
Anarchist Principles:Baldelli’s anarchist principles will immediately remind one of Indian socialist thinkers: the human person is primary; human life is sacred; coercion must be rejected; the end does not justify the means; and double standards are unacceptable. There is no right or justification for putting God, race, country, state, class, history, or progress above the individual. It is immoral to sacrifice the individual at the alter of any of these “creations of the human mind” all of which may serve as a “justification for murder” and “a mask for expediency and self-interest.” Coercion is “evil” because it “runs counter to the needs and purposes of the individual…” Actions must be judged by the means. What is not permissible tomorrow is not permissible today. And the same scale must be used to judge ourselves and our enemies. There can be no double standards.
Ethical Capital:Baldelli’s key concept is “ethical capital.” This is defined as “whatever in human relationships is neither violent nor in any way injurious, and whatever dictates to one man actions which are beneficial to another, is a contribution to what we shall call the ethical capital of mankind.” For Baldelli, society is not Hobbesian, but rather there is a will within “most men to live peacefully together.” History mostly teaches us about war and violence, but the far greater trend in history is the renunciation of violence. While ethical capital exists, it can be depleted, and most generally, its depletion comes about as a result of action by the state. “The state can be defined as organized exploitation of ethical capital, for such is its main activity and distinguishing feature.”
Genuinely peaceful living and “every freedom that is not a disguised tyranny” stems from ethical capital. It is the basis for morality in society. The disposition to do good when repeated becomes virtue. The self imposed restraint makes possible freedom, property and human society.
For Baldelli, ethical capital seems to stem from human nature, from “generosity and liberality,” and from a will to give. Whereas “the will to power is miserly, spiteful, and rude,” “the will to give is joyous and refined.” And giving also stems from love. “Love… is the prime and ultimate source of ethical life.” Man is gregarious, and tries to understand others and himself. He seeks the “coincidence of two minds” which is expressed in poetry, philosophy and religion.” This is a basis for social cohesion. “To be human is to know of a world where the laws of power and biological need do not rule invariantly, a world of humanity instead of strife, of intelligent creativeness rather than of stupidity and destruction.” Production also contributes to ethical capital. “Renunciation of violence is the main stay of ethical capital.”
The Ideal vs. the Realist: For Baldelli, questions of right and wrong cannot be dismissed and it is “practical” to make the distinction between the “is and the ought.” He follows the “natural law” view of history because “it attaches no rational validity to a fact simply because it is a fact and does no recognize a state of things as right simply because it exists.” History, for Baldelli is not dialectical, but “generic.” Natural law “affords the possibility of solving conflicts without resort to force.” He suggests a “three-fold task” for a social deontology. First, to determine what is right and wrong in light of rationality. This must be independent of interests and ideologies. Second, it is necessary to solve the difficulties and contradictions between valid principles. Third, one must suggest forms of organizations adhering to principles recognized as right by the general will. Since these must be independent of “racial, religious, political, economic, or personal interests,” they seem to rule out political religion, identity politics, political power, and the effect upon the economy. The guides for a peaceful, just and creative society are love, honesty and good will. He suggests that the ideal society can come about. If there is “a strong enough consensus to act as if the ideal were the real,” then the “ideal can supersede the real.”
Freedom and Authority: Freedom and authority are complimentary, not contradictory. Authority is not the enemy of freedom. The confusion arises because what is state power today is taken as “authority.” But for Baldelli, this is not “authority” but its opposite.
First, we must clarify the difference between positive and negative freedom. Positive freedom is defined as “unimpeded satisfaction of desire.” This kind of freedom can only enslave and use others as tools in an organization based on power, such as the modern state. Without “love” and “the exercise of generosity” it will not respect the freedom of others.
Negative freedom means “freedom from elimination, objectification, and instrumentalization, freedom from harm.” It “is more important than positive freedom.”
It is in anarchist society that there can be positive freedom. There “… will be positive freedom… but only in association with others, not over against them.” This will be achieved by creating a “plurality of powers” within society. He says this is the only way to avoid making the individual powerless. Freedom means primarily “conditions of peaceful social living.” It is primarily negative freedom but it seems that Baldelli is asserting that anarchist society is the form of society which can also provide some degree of positive freedom. Freedom will include the absence of violence to body and will, the prevention of objectification, freedom from instrumentalization and freedom from victimization.
We can conclude that for Baldelli, all modern states are “tyrannical” because they consist of power which does not want to be challenged. In anarchist society, obviously, there must be institutions to provide safeguards against such a power conundrum.
“Authority is more precious than power.” Authority is recognized competence within a certain field.
There is a sharp distinction between power and authority. Power, when unwilling to be challenged, can lead to tyranny. But authority is different. Ethical authority requires that the person granting recognition of authority be in a position to deny or withhold recognition. Authority should be widely distributed, be based on right education and have integrity. Authority requires competence and consent, not force, which makes it a “spiritual power.”
Leadership: Leadership, as it is commonly conceived, is rejected by Baldelli. It is at the heart of the rot found in modern politics. “Leadership is destructive of authority… it is responsible for the degradation of the individual into the mass man.” In this way, leadership is dangerous. Instead of having a triangular relationship, where there is observation and judgement, it is a bipolar relationship, based upon emotion, not reason.
This may explain the basis of mass politics today. The creation of the mass man creates a dangerous psychology. The mass man exerts a “degrading influence” and “is potentially murderous.” The mass man only recognizes subjectivity and authority in the leader and himself. So others can be sacrificed, if need be. The leader, on the other hand, sees the mass of followers as “a composite monster” rather than individuals. So the “mechanical and the elemental prevail over the human.” The mass is a “monster in love,” but with the leader and not the other human beings in society. But the masses follow the leader only in the presence of an enemy, so the leader is accepted only out of fear. As fear replaces love, the leadership turns to tyranny. This could surely be a description of the George W. Bush Administration in America, which has thankfully passed.
Danger of Power usurping authority and Becoming Tyranny:“The greatest menace of our times is the authority power is securing for itself in the heart and mind of people, ousting their loyalty to intrinsic values, ousting dignity and desire of ethical achievement.” People come to believe that “power is the supreme value…” Natural and ethical authority, on the other hand, are obstacles to power. Authority is based upon love while power is based upon fear. “Power does not believe in love and aims at destroying authority, both natural and ethical.”
When society is analyzed in a realist and mechanical way, as power opposing power, it is seen to be right when “the strongest is on top.” The weak have no choice but to surrender. In the state, “surrender becomes permanent and cowardice total” and there is blatant “exploitation of ethical capital.”
There are four measures which must be taken to curb the “supremacy of power” and move toward establishing “the rule of power.” Institutions specializing in compulsion must be dissolved; political parties must be abolished; the independence of organizations dominated by the state must be reclaimed; and individuals in state organizations must have independence.
Courage is required, but to resist power and the state, requires “anti-power” to prevent being crushed. Anti-power comes essentially from the solidarity of those who resist power. “The power-seeker must be denounced and socially paralyzed…”
The Role of Authority: Essentially, Baldelli envisions a society in which authority is decentralized, very much in keeping with the ideas of the Indian socialist thinkers. Guides for the rule of authority include reducing coercive authority to a minimum and putting it in many hands; rejecting authority based on force or cunning; establishing the solidarity of all independent centers of authority, basing authority upon competence and assent; rendering powerless secret organizations with secret planning and basing society upon openness; and making each authority answerable to several others. “Each authority must be answerable to several more, in a system that joins all together in a tangle of chains where each link is interlocked with several others.” Again, the bottom line is that force must be renounced. “…[E]very act of force is antisocial and that society is most fully civilized from which the use of force has been excluded.”
Critique of the state and political society:
“The complex of mechanisms by which ethical capital is exploited in modern societies is called the state. The state can be defined as organized exploitation of ethical capital, for such is its main activity and distinguishing feature.” Actually existing political societies, as well as historical ones, are characteristic of what laymen refer to as “anarchy.” They are not based upon morality and authority, but upon leadership and power. So, typically, ethics is transcended for the rule of power. The true rule of law can only be achieved in anarchist society, but this is the law of morality, and not state law. In fact, the rule of law means absence of government.
Baldelli argues that it is possible for the state to engage in charity, and this is indeed ethical, but the problem is that the methods used by the state are not ethical. The persons engaged in charity are not ethical and neither is the basis of the organization. “Except by usurpation, the state is not ethical.”
Another problem is the origin of the state. “There is no modern state we can think of that did not originate from an act of violence and usurpation against its own people.” Baldelli sets the state apart from other forms of organizations. “A state differs from other organizations in that it sets no limits on its own extension.” This means that it cannot be clearly argued that the preservation of the state is more ethical than its overthrow. Revolution may be “an act of just retribution.” A state could only be ethical if controlled by the people.
Moreover, states are a threat to peace. “…[T]he greatest danger to peace lies precisely in their existence.” The state needs force for its protection because it is violent, rather than peaceful. The modern state primarily uses compulsion for evil. Moreover, the modern state wants “to set itself beyond analysis and judgment and to command uncritical submission.” In order to remedy this use of force, all armies must be abolished. This problem arose with the establishment of the first standing army. After this all states found it necessary to have their own army. Societies have no hostile intentions against each other; rather it is the states which clash.
The dehumanizing feature of the state is that people are denied the exercise of an ethically inclined will. People come to believe that society could not exist without the state. It replaces habit and customs with men who must show obedience. The state requires two types of people: the organizational and the automatically obedient. States need tough, shrewd, unscrupulous men who can lie with a straight face and take responsibility for any crime necessary to power. This reminds one of the neoconservative architects of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The state tries to liquidate the past. But “to rob a man of his past is to make him ready to be the perfect slave.” Giving service to the state makes a man a slave. The state is unethical or anti-ethical, while the social is ethical.
Exploitation:Productive activity “presupposes an ethical disposition” and generally causes no harm, except in the case of the manufacture of weapons, poisons, and so on. The problem here, for Baldelli, is the profit motive, which is “antithetical” and “exploitative.” Baldelli does not favor either socialism or communism as an economic form, but it is clear that the way modern corporate capitalism operates is exploitation of ethical capital. In modern economies, wealth may increase, while “ethical capital decreases.” Economic exploitation emerges because, firstly, the worker’s energies, time, and skills are alienated; secondly, the individual’s pacific and generous disposition is alienated; thirdly, his trust is exploited; and finally, his ethical sentiments tend to dry up. Baldelli believes that every person has a “fund of ethical power” and this must be “constantly renewed.”
Ethical behavior cannot be based upon the domination of society by one class. In contrast to Marx, he does not favor the triumph of the working class as a class. He says that it is unethical to make the cause of ethics coincide with the interests of a particular nation or class. When one class gains privilege, they exploit ethical capital for their interests. This creates “false values” because the privileges are generally accepted. In general, there should be equality, with the exceptions based upon age, health, intelligence and strength.
Labor, Wages, Values and Prices: Parts of Baldelli’s analysis are similar to that of Marx.For Baldelli, however, the labor theory of value is faulty because it ignores the role of capital and entrepreneurship. Pro-capitalist theories of value, on the other hand, ignore the role of labor. Both theories tend to ignore the contributions of nature. Baldelli’s definition of value seems somewhat muddled, but he says that “the concept of value transcends economics…” The price merely “expresses the exchange value of an object…” “Prices in a capitalist economy are an index of the exploitation of needs that things satisfy, not an index of the value of things.” He downplays the role of the market, because “force comes into play” and even war is waged for economic needs. The state uses its power to reinforce the domination of capital over the workers and this is unethical. “The particularly unethical feature of capitalism… is the labor-commanding power of capital.” Workers are “in no sense free.” The fact that the contribution of nature is collected by the capitalist is another unethical feature of capitalism. Both the capitalist mode and the collective mode of appropriating resources, in his view, fall short of being ethical.
To illustrate this, Baldelli cites an example. A man discovers water, where it is scarce, and sells it to others. He is a capitalist. The state solution, on the other hand, is to distribute the water according to some formula, perhaps equitably. The ethical solution, on the other hand, would be to allow everyone to use the water under a social, rather than a statal arrangement. It is unethical to exploit a man’s thirst for profit. Profit is the “result of sheer exploitation.” Where the supply is limited, there needs to be cooperation in its use.
Baldelli’s analysis of the relationship between the capitalist and worker is radically different from that of Marx. He says that there is no such thing as “exploitation of labor.” He says it is not the worker but the consumer who is exploited, whether under capitalism or collectivism. Exploitation comes from the “system,” not the employer. A man has to sell his energy, his time, his life, because he is a consumer and must work for the price and this is exploitation. The measure of “just wages” is determined according to the amount of necessities which they will buy. Wages could be too high or too low. The worker is paid by the consumer and when wages are too high, the consumer is being exploited by the worker. For Marx, of course, surplus value is expropriated from the worker during the production process, which is the very root of exploitation and capitalist accumulation.
For the classical political economists, and also Marx, wages are considered to fall to the level of subsistence of the worker. So what Baldelli is saying is that in an ethical society, the worker must be paid a just wage, which satisfies his human needs, rather than being exploited for a profit.
One danger for Baldelli is that the “dependent and unproductive class” might increase to the point where society’s needs would not be met. This seems to introduce the element of incentive to work and people are to be paid in non-essential goods or in currency (credits). In order to attract people to the undesirable jobs, these jobs would necessarily pay more. The mechanism is introduced to establish rough economic equality.
Work and Wealth:The concept of property is rejected. For Baldelli, there is only a right of usufruct, not of property. A person has no right to that which he cannot use. Similar to Indian socialist thinkers, he condemns both capitalism and collectivism as unethical. It is violence and threats of violence through which property arose, historically. To sustain ethical capital, society must refuse to use violence to protect property.
There can be little distinction between property acquired through unfair competition, slavery, previous spoliation and outright theft. If these are not condemned, then theft can also not be condemned. And given that life is impermanent, “any claim to property is ludicrous and futile.” Nature provides enough for all. Similarly, for Gandhi: “Nature provides enough for every man’s need but not for every man’s greed.”
There are major differences between property and usufruct. Property is based upon force. Property is irresponsible and unconditional. Societies based upon property use force to protect the interests of the few. Usufruct, on the other hand, is based upon non-violence and is subject to social and economic conditions. As such, it carries moral obligations. In anarchist society, usufruct is based upon the ethical capital of the society in which all members must renounce violence. When conflict arises then there may be compromise. Sometimes a contract may be required.
This calls for an ethical economics different from both capitalism and collectivism. When natural resources are plentiful, they should be available to all. Uncultivated land, open land, air, the subsoil, the sea and other waters should be for the use of everybody. Game, fish and firewood should belong to all, when plentiful. The natural economy should be preserved for future generations and wasting or hoarding would be subject to torts.
Production and Consumption: In Baldelli’s ethical society, all consumer goods and services will be divided into two groups: the essential and the non-essential. Essential goods are those goods and services necessary to keep any individual in a healthy and efficient condition. What is essential will be determined by the individual, a medical authority and a local economic authority. Essential goods will be rationed and distributed free to everybody. Non-essential goods must be purchased from the remuneration of labor in the form of “purchasing power.” No one will be compelled to work and there will be those who are idle but are, nevertheless, eligible for usufruct. He rejects the formulation: “he who does not labor, neither shall he eat,” in an anarchist society. On the other hand, society must provide for the basic necessities of all and the more people work, the higher can be the standard of living. But the producer will have the right to be supplied first.
Industrial plants will be “under the joint authority of production units representing the competence and ability of management and workers…” They will also represent the consumers and consumers’ needs will regulate the volume, type and direction of production. Selling one’s products or services is unethical. There will be “mediating authorities” responsible for distributing products. These authorities could be disqualified and replaced at any time. Also, the system needs to be decentralized.
Political Parties and Electoral Systems: Baldelli’s approach to party politics and elections parallels closely many of the criticisms made by M.N. Roy. The principle of elections pretends that the people control the state, but in practice, society is controlled and manipulated by the government in power and by political parties. Political parties are not ethical, as they concentrate power and deplete ethical capital. Baldelli says that without political parties, there would be enough ethical capital to go around.
“Systems of election, delegation, and nomination are all to be rejected in principle because they entail alienation of responsibility and freedom…” Social affairs should be managed without a government. He says that the apologists of government forget that “government is mostly responsible for the ineptitude and disabilities of the governed.”
Majority rule is faulty because it “discourages independent judgment and reduces questions of right and wrong to questions of numbers.” It is “ludicrous’ to claim that the majority have the right to dictate to the minority. “A system of social peace is tyrannical if it demands universal acceptance of one system of values.” The economic authorities will coordinate production with consumer demand and make sure that distribution is just and efficient. Baldelli suggests that there might have to be “expropriation and redistribution of dwellings” at first and no one should have the use of a bigger house than he or she needs.
Baldelli suggests institutional arrangements to mitigate the “tyranny of the majority.” First, if possible, a solution should be found where both the minority and majority can follow their own policy; when only one policy can be followed, it should be seen as “sacrifice” not victory; for each sacrifice of the minority, they should be satisfactorily compensated; there should be “equitable distribution of sacrifice, that is, a proportionate number of decisions should support the will of the minority. Baldelli says that “under a liberal and anarchist dispensation every man must be free to have, and live by, his own system of values.” Baldelli goes on to work out a somewhat complicated scheme in which each party in society would gain as much as they lost.
Nonviolence:“The renunciation of violence and deception, however motivated, is the first and fundamental condition to the achievement of freedom and peaceful social existence as well as to their preservation once achieved.”
Protection of the Weak: (the Sarvodaya Principle) “Ethical behavior is for the protection of the weak… for every man is weak.” Baldelli’s ideas can be compared to those of Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave in making the needs of the weak a priority in society.
Punishment and Self-Defense: Baldelli recognizes that not everyone will abide by the ethical principles of society all the time. Consequently, society must protect itself from those who commit infractions of the ethical code. In general, there should not be punishment, since punishment is basically unethical and injures the person subject to punishment. However, some degree of punishment will be necessary as a “defensive measure.” The goal is to reestablish harmony and punishment will be replaced with reparation and social self-defense.
The first problem is “hubris.” These anti-social individuals believe that “common standards of decency and morality do not apply to them.” “…[H]e who suffers from hubris may have to be segregated and supervised until declared safely cured.” Baldelli says, “no society is ethical in which each member does not naturally absorb its governing principles of right and wrong.”
The question is how to establish these governing principles. Baldelli does not believe this can be accomplished through written law. “Written law represents a generally unsuccessful substitute for a universal understanding of ethical principles.” The fundamental problems are three: ignorance of the law is not a plea; full knowledge of the law is obtained only by a few; and written law can be manipulated. Instead, in an anarchist society, ethical principles alone should be used. But written law is not “necessary or helpful” in deciding what is ethical.
Preventors, Assessors, Arbitration, and Approvers: To deal with these problems, there would be “assessors of torts,” which would be equivalent to the judiciary. There would also be “preventors” who would give “enlightenment.” Approvers would be part of the appeals process for decisions made by the assessors of torts. The person who is guilty of an unethical act will only be further injured by punishment. So he will be given counsel by preventors, who will be in psychiatry or perhaps the priesthood, to relieve his “tortured mind.” This is a sort of rehabilitation.
For the injured person, there should be some compensation and this should not be punitive but proportional to the damage. Sometimes arbitration by third parties may be used with the agreement of both parties. The goal is to reestablish harmony. Where the offender does not agree then it may be necessary to resort to “compulsion” and “detention.” An appeals process would be in place whereby assessments could be reviewed and approved or disapproved. The idea is to replace punishment with the principles of “reparation” and “social self-defense.”
The exception to the above is the crime of murder. Baldelli says that murder is the only injury for which no compensation is possible. He argues that society, in general, cannot forgive the murderer. This can only be done by the person who has lost his life. Consideration must be made for the person who has been killed and this person should be considered to remain a member of society. But the murderer is subject to banishment from society and loss of social rights. There will be no death penalty. Baldelli does not rule out the possibility of rehabilitation of the murderer in future, however, if the person is fully reformed.
There would be an “emergency corps” which would take the place of a police force, the militia and the army. The emergency corps would deal with crises such as fires, floods and epidemics. This organization would also have the task of apprehending murderers and those who have perpetrated torts. This force would not be centralized, but under local authorities. Guiding principles would apply to this force: the emergency force must be separated from cultural organizations; judicial approval is necessary for non-routine activities; there must be frequent rotation of its members; non-remuneration, members would receive no pay; and the necessity of individual accountability.
Revolution: “Anarchism is the purity of rebellion.” For Baldelli, rebellion is “a statement of righteousness and truth.” Revolution (antipower) of a sort is necessary for Baldelli, but it must be revolution based upon establishing authority rather than an antipower which is transformed into a new and repressive power. Also revolution cannot be based upon philosophy or an ideology, because, “the rebel against authority recognizes no other judge than himself.” The real anarchist revolution must be made by society, so one must steer clear of both the Right and the Left. Both ideologies are “systems of mystification and political exploitation.” One must avoid them in the same way that the pacifist avoids armies and apply the “same critical intelligence that has been applied to the mystique of war.” When the left triumphs, then it becomes the new Right.
Most revolutions in history, given the heat and dynamics of the revolution and the aftermath, have resulted in tyranny, rather than freedom, according the Baldelli. Rebellion may lead to tyranny or anarchism. Where “faith is kept” the rebel becomes an anarchist. For Baldelli, similar to Kripalani, violent revolution will not result in freedom. Anarchism is to emphasize the social, rather than the destructive, as in Michael Bakunin. He says there are many paths to anarchism, but using antipower to get into power will not establish the desired society.
Meekness, Baldelli argues, is not being servile or cringing. In the same way, for Gandhi, nonviolence was not pacifism, but moral activism. Nonviolence, for Baldelli, is also not endorsing or remaining quiet about the unethical actions of masters. Rather, it is “an abiding disposition of harmlessness, an unwillingness and finally, an inability to resort to the methods and to stand the strain of violent competition and affirmation.”
Baldelli suggests ways in which anarchism might come about without a violent revolution. This would be through what he calls “permeation.” This is a sort of subversion of state power through “reclaiming authority from the unethical state by permeating the organizations of the state. He believes that this is possible even in a totalitarian state. The state will be permeated by ethical elements.
It is highly unlikely, however, that such attempts could succeed in today’s security environments. What is required, according to Baldelli, is anti-power. Anti-power is based upon ethical capital and is “the motive force of genuine revolutions.” The idea is not to have an ideology and leader who will claim power, against the old power, as this would defeat the purpose of the revolution. The power of the state must be defeated on “behalf of authority without itself becoming power.” But generally, the problem with revolutions is that anti-power degenerates into power. The idea is to prevent this from happening. If anti-power is ethically routed and ethically inspired, it can dislodge power and break down oppression and exploitation. This will require much precaution and the continuous weakening of the state.
So to avoid the historical experiences of the revolutionary aftermath, whereby power is consolidated only with a new tyranny to gain and hold power, ethical principles must be applied “straight away.” It is not clear that this would be possible in an actual historical situation. Baldelli explores how authority might prevail over the tendency for anti-power to degenerate into power. Actually, he seems to come to conclusions similar to J. B. Kripalani, namely, that revolution based on a violent struggle cannot advance the ethical society. For Kripalani, it was only non-violent struggle that led to historical progress.
Baldelli criticizes radical revolutionaries, because they reject the extant ethical capital of society and have to ‘create new ethical capital, new ethical wills, new ethical forms, values, names.” So the great majority cannot understand these new values. He also says that a violent and disruptive revolution will cause more trouble for the working class, who provide production and essentially services, than those in a good position in society.
Baldelli, of course, rejects the Leninist view that the force of regimes can only be resisted by force. How does one get out of this dilemma? Rebellion against power is necessary, but society must also be protected. First, leadership in revolutionary organizations is likely to lead to a new sort of power or tyranny. Therefore, it is better to subvert power from the inside secretly and in this way to establish authority of the anarchist ethical society. He says that one must be ready to sacrifice career. But one must also acknowledge that, in many cases, one will be considered a traitor and probably executed.
Religion:For Baldelli, there are two sides to religion. Belief can be useful for the ethical life, but it is also an obstacle to peaceful living, due to the rigid position taken by some religious leaders and their desire to force their beliefs upon the will of the members of the community. It is quite clear that personally, Baldelli is an atheist and that the “mystique” that demands the sacrifice of the individual, whether for God, the fatherland, the race, the dialectics of history, or the working class is an “alienation.” All of these “absolutes” must be rejected. Another problem of religion is that advocates are not generally interested in ending ethical exploitation. So he does not have faith in the admonition to “turn the other cheek.” An anarchist revolution will be one of “generalized rebellion, without leaders and masses.” It seems, then, that the usefulness of religion is that it may possibly contribute to the ethical capital of society by making a person love his neighbor and try to help others. The harsh side, and dictatorial tendency, he rejects.
Ways to the New Society. These are four as outlined above: The way of the meek; the way of the builders; the way of the guardians; and the way of the Brave.
In this paper, we have considered the insights of Giovanni Baldelli (Social Anarchism, 1971). The critical criteria in Baldelli’s social thought parallels closely the arguments of Indian Socialist thinkers, such as M.N. Roy, Jayaprakash Narayan and J.B. Kripilani. These, inter alia, include his criteria of political decentralization, individual freedom and moral autonomy. These must not be sacrificed upon the alter of state necessity (exploitation of ethical capital for Baldelli), the recognition of the essentially unethical nature of the State, and the necessarily authoritarian dehumanizing nature of political parties. Also similar to these Indian thinkers, who were influenced by both the Western socialist tradition, including Marx, and Gandhi, Baldelli is an anarchist who takes ethical concerns as the primary anchor for his social thought. Baldelli’s thought can also be related to the Gandhian principle of Sarvodaya. “Ethical behavior is for the protection of the weak.” He also adheres to the principle of nonviolence. “Nonviolence is a necessary condition for freedom.”
For Baldelli, every society is naturally enriched with a base of ethical capital because in every society there is a general willingness to live peacefully. Ethical capital is that in human relationships which is “neither violent nor in any way injurious,” and “that which dictates to one man actions which are beneficient to another.” Ethical capital is “an agglomeration of wills directed to good purposes and socially beneficial.”
The State, on the other hand, is the “organized exploitation of ethical capital for such is its main activity and distinguishing feature.” This exploitation of ethical capital serves to diminish ethical capital and increase violence. Similar processes are at work due to the activities of the capitalist economy, the political party, and various forms of class conflict and struggle. This perspective reminds one of Kripilani’s argument that violent political struggle does not lead to progressive political change. In Kripilani’s view it was only non-violent struggle that resulted in meaningful progress in history.
Baldelli defines exploitation as getting something for nothing or getting more from the system than one puts into it. As this is the mode of operation of the capitalist economy, economic exploitation serves to diminish ethical capital which instead must be continually renewed in individuals for a peaceful and just society.
Baldelli regards authority and freedom as complimentary rather than antithetical. Authority must not be established by force, as every modern state has been. He states that “each authority must be answerable to several others that are equally responsible to several more, in a system that joins all together as in a tangle of chains where each link is interlocked with several others.” In this way Baldelli conceptualizes novel institutions which might safeguard against the use of force in society while ensuring human security from those who violate peaceful norms.
While Roy and Narayan were both Marxists, they developed a sharp critique of actually existing Western liberal and communist societies. In their reconsideration of Gandhian nonviolence and Sarvodaya, they reached similar conclusions to Baldelli’s version of anarchist thought.
Giovanni Baldelli, Social Anarchism. Chicago: Aldine Atherton, 1971, p. 6.
Baldelli pp. 3-4.
Baldelli, pp. 3-4.
Baldelli, p. 13.
Baldelli, p. 35.
Baldelli, pp. 20-21.
Baldelli, p. 22.
Baldelli, p. 58.
Baldelli, pp. 58-62.
Baldelli, p. 72.
Baldelli, pp. 72-73.
Baldelli, pp. 78-79.
Baldelli, p. 85.
Baldelli, p. 80.
Baldelli, p. 81.
Baldelli, p. 81.
Baldelli, p. 85.
Baldelli, pp. 86-87.
Baldelli, p. 35.
Baldelli, p. 162.
Baldelli, p. 35.
Baldelli, p. 36.
Baldelli, p. 36.
Baldelli, p. 37.
Baldelli, pp. 38-40.
Eddie J. Girdner, USAand the New Middle East (New Delhi: Gyan Books, 2008)
Baldelli, pp. 40-44.
Baldelli, p. 27.
Baldelli, p. 28.
Baldelli, p. 46.
Baldelli, p. 33
Baldelli, p. 133.
Baldelli, p. 127.
Baldelli, pp. 123-129.
Baldelli, p. 134.
Baldelli, p. 131.
Baldelli, pp. 133-136.
Baldelli, pp. 138-139.
Baldelli, pp. 108-109.
Baldelli, p. 111.
Baldelli, p. 113.
Baldelli, pp. 113-117.
Baldelli, pp. 136-137.
M.N. Roy, Politics, Power and Parties. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1960.
Baldelli, p. 37.
Baldelli, p. 45.
Baldelli, p. 91.
Baldelli, p. 94.
Baldelli, p. 95.
Baldelli, p. 98. This would certainly apply to a system of capitalism where everyone is expected to accept the so-called system of the market and capitalist exploitation.
Baldelli, pp. 105-106.
Baldelli, p. 119.
Baldelli, pp. 95-96.
Baldelli, p. 98.
Baldelli, p. 163.
Baldelli, p. 30.
Baldelli, p. 146.
Baldelli, pp. 148-151.
Baldelli, pp. 151-152.
Baldelli, pp. 153-154.
Baldelli, p. 157.
Baldelli, pp. 154-156.
Baldelli, p. 1.
Baldelli, p. 2.
Baldelli, p. 1.
Baldelli, pp. 8-9.
G.P. Maximoff, The Political Philosophy of Bakunun. New York: The Free Press, l953.
Baldelli, p. 164.
Baldelli, p. 169.
Baldelli, p. 170.
Baldelli, p. 46-47.
Baldelli, pp. 29-30.
Baldelli, p. 9.
I have considered the writings of these Indian political thinkers elsewhere. (“Socialism, Sarvodya, and Democracy, the Theoretical Contributions of M.N. Roy, Jayaprakash Narayan, and J.B. Kripilani,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, 1986)