Ask a libertarian socialist for a list of 20th and 21st century libertarian socialist societies, and you'd probably get something akin to the following:
- 1902 - 1906: Gurian Republic
- 1903 - 1903: Strandzha Commune
- 1911 - 1911: Baja California
- 1913 - 1917: Morelos Commune
- 1918 - 1921: Free Territory of Ukraine
- 1921 - 1923: Guangzhou
- 1929 - 1931: Shinmin Prefecture
- 1936 - 1939: Revolutionary Spain
- 1957 - Present: FEJUVE
- 1971 - Present: Freetown Christiania
- 1979 - Present: Marinaleda
- 1994 - Present: MAREZ
- 2001 - Present: Barbacha
- 2011 - Present: Cherán
- 2012 - Present: NES or "Rojava"
(Hell, you might even get more spicy looks at things like the Bruderhof and the Kibbutzim - controversial due to their relationships to more oppressive concepts like patriarchal Christianity and Zionism).
(Note: nobody claims that all of these movements are a direct result of the mainly western philosophy of libertarian socialism, many of these were non-western or non-leftist movements that independently reached similar conclusions to western libertarian socialists. I assume everybody understands this particular nuance and will not object to certain experiments being referred to as libertarian socialist experiments for the sake of brevity).
Now, I (and many others) think it's extremely important to note how pre-1957 most libertarian socialist experiments failed completely in a few years, but since then there has been a drastic boost in their life expectancy, which only makes more optimistic about a potential future (which I think will most likely emerge in Ukraine or Turkey).
To explain this increase in the "life expectancy" of libertarian socialist projects, I'd like to propose a following few factors:
- Increased focus on public relations
- Building more healthy alliances
- Ethnic liberation conflicts
- Fighting police but not the army
I'll explain what I mean by each.
Increased focus on public relations
Three cases strike me as important to look at here. The Spanish Revolution, the Cuban Revolution and the Zapatista Revolution. In all cases, paramilitary organisations defeated the state, and I'd argue that the Spanish Revolution partially failed due to a loss of popular support due to anti-catholic persecution and failure to ally with Spanish Moroccans. On the other hand, Cuban revolutionaries didn't steal and had support from the civilian population which enabled them to hide and capture towns without resistance - enabling the revolutionaries to defeat one of the most powerful armies in Latin America. Whilst the Zapatistas built alliances with international NGOs, churches and trade unions and used them to reduce the chance of brutal military reprisals. Not to mention their revolutions coincided with mass protests across Mexico to stop the war.
Building more healthy alliances
Contrast the actions of the Free Territory, who were backstabbed by an unreliable ally after several great military victories. Or Revolutionary Spain, who were also backstabbed but lost potential US support for the Republic due to anti-catholic persecution. With the actions of the Cuban and Zapatista revolutions, who built alliances where-ever they could and knew at any moment they could be stabbed in the back.
Ethnic liberation conflicts
It's an undeniable fact that of the 4 libertarian socialist communities established by insurrection, all were done in the context of a ethnic liberation war of people fighting against racist governments. 2 ones fought by indigenous Americans, 1 by Kurds and 1 by Amazighs. There's also a tendency to rebel against police and military oppression of minority communities, which has led to the largest uprisings in liberal capitalist states in recent memory (not just the George Floyd Protests, but also LA in 1992, Redfern [Sydney] in 2004, Paris in 2005, England in 2011 and so on). Thus I predict any libertarian socialist rebellion in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and/or the USA will be led by indigenous people rebelling against police brutality.
Of course, I'm in no way suggesting we view history as a struggle of ethnicities against each-other.
Basically, get lots of lawyers on our side and enable us to have our own self-governing towns/regions instead of trying to capture the state. I think this significantly reduces the chance of an all out war of which we are highly likely to lose.
Fighting police but not the army
Pretty self-explanatory, but I also noticed this trend with the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea, the Magonista Uprising in the Mexican Revolution and even the Paris Commune in 1871. Citizens with light amounts of training in small arms and using improvised tools and explosives can easily beat back the police, but struggle against the military. Some may say what about Vietnam and Afghanistan and I'd like to note the following factors:
- Those groups had significant amounts of military training and aid from foreign powers, with Afghanistan being composed of leftover equipment from Operation Cyclone.
- War in these regions still absolutely devastated them, 17% of Vietnam's rainforests (9% of the country's landmass) were contaminated by chemical weapons pollution and up to 4 million Vietnamese citizens have suffered permanent disabilities and/or serious health problems as a result of chemical weapons contamination, including children who were born after the war.
- The war in Afghanistan hasn't really been won because the USA just keeps throwing an infinite reserve of troops, and the Vietnam War took around 20 years to win. These conditions can't really be repeated, especially not in the high-income, liberal countries most of us are from.
Instead, I propose that in the conditions ripe for revolution (such would exclude all currently high-income, liberal capitalist states - and as such libertarian socialists should focus their efforts elsewhere) a libertarian socialist paramilitary force would be able to overpower in the police, but try to negotiate some kind of autonomous zone with the state before the military is called in. The state also benefits from this arrangement, since military intervention against a paramilitary organisation with high levels of popular support (and is possibly mainly a historically marginalised ethnic minority) doesn't bode well in terms of public relations. So essentially, we manipulate the states desire for good public relations against itself and force their hand to grant us autonomy to build libertarian socialism.
Tell me your thoughts on these observations, and add your own if you'd like!