The ACAR Conundrum

As i mentioned in my previous post, many writers in favour of animal rights (AR), such as Gary Francione and Steve Best are anti-capitalist (AC).

Gary Francione favours “democratic socialism” (see the first comment on this post), while Steve Best advocates a form of social anarchism, captured in point 5 of this summary document about the Institute for Critical Animal Studies which Steve helped form.

In both cases, their political views are at odds with their views on animal rights.

This is most obvious in Gary Francione’s case, where he favours socialism—albeit democratic.

Democratic Socialism is a form of collectivism, where the government purports to  act on behalf of the majority, but typically also expresses its own preferences while in power.

A small group—the elected government—acts on behalf of its citizens, but is unable to make decisions that will satisfy all of them, will overrule minorities, and may at times even overrule majorities.

Outside limits that may be set by a state’s constitution and law, individuals have no voluntary choice. Whatever the government decides, goes.

At its core, democratic socialism is a mix of government rule and utilitarianism, where the government or majority reigns.

As such, the collectivist ideals underlying both democracy and socialism support the idea that a majority of citizens, through the government, or an ‘enlightened’ government alone, can justify using other animals based on either the will of the people, or the view of the government.

Thus the collectivist philosophy that underpins democratic socialism contradicts the individualist idea of animal rights.

As to Steve Best’s view, social anarchism maintains a distinction between private property—which it wants to do away with—and personal possessions, which it accepts.

Without getting into the subject of anarchism generally, it recognises that personal possession of our bodies is essential to maintain life, and in that respect, is consistent with the idea of animal rights.

However where it diverges from individual rights, and so animal rights, is in the social element of anarchism.

Steve advocates for “decentralising and democratising society” (see the 2nd paragraph ICAS link), which means that a group, whatever the size, will decide what action members of that group can take.

It doesn’t matter that they reach these decisions by ‘consensus.’ This is still a form of collectivism, albeit on a smaller scale. Individuals are restricted in what paths they can follow.

In this case there’s a conflict between the idea of personal possession and group decisions.

While Steve believes in animal rights, many anarchists don’t share his views, and the alliance politics he advocates along with the utilitarian aspects of group decisions could mean that the will of the majority in regard to using animals could overrule the will of the minority.

Curiously, while Steve advocates “democratising society,” an article he didn’t write, but reproduced on his site, ends by saying, “we have to be tireless in our critique of democracy, as the alternative people in this society intuitively fall back on against the excesses of capitalism.”

The anarchist Bobby Whittenberg-James, puts it another way:

What good is it to free society if each individual is not free from society? From economics? From the commune? From the federation? It is not anarchy if it is not free of bureaucracy, no matter how “directly democratic” it is purported to be.

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