Tuesday, 23 August 2011

More Anarchism, Please - Less Anarchy, Thanks!

Gandhian anarchism vs bombthrowing anarchy, original image composed from two public domain images of uncertain authorship, via Wikimedia Commons.  Released into public domain by me, Gray Woodland, as author - attribution requested.
Anarchists are widely unpopular, because of a pervading suspicion that they are for some reason in favour of anarchy. Since people seldom notice anarchy around them except when it expresses itself as rioting mobs, feuding warlords, and/or general social collapse, they understandably dislike it quite a lot.

So, not being complete looneys, do most anarchists. This is because anarchists who are not looneys are committed to anarchism much more than they are eager for anarchy. There is quite a big difference.

Full-spectrum anarchy is easily, if often bloodily, achieved in any given society. One simply, and simplistically, smashes existing bosses without replacing their authority.

Anarchism is a much harder project, necessarily approached much more with words than with swords. Just as monarchism is the not entirely satisfactory attempt to solve social problems by putting them all in the hands of a hereditary boss or king, anarchism is the commitment to solve social problems without benefit of any bosses whatsoever.

Getting those solutions up and running, and persuading people to buy into them - in a word, making the bosses unnecessary - has got to come before smashing the bosses, or even forcing them all to storm off in a snit. Otherwise, what you invite is merely a gloves-off scramble amongst the powered-up dregs of society to become the New Boss. Unless the Old Boss was very bad indeed, that is only going to be the same old same old, with a double order of mayhem and blood ketchup on the side. You know, pretty much like your bog-standard progressive or reactionary revolution on the pro-government side. Everybody who responds with, "Do. Not. WANT!" is absolutely right to do so.

In a society which is already successfully anarchist, anarchy will no longer be anything to fear.

But in a society which is, for example, basically monarchist in its customs, institutions, and instincts, anarchy will be simply sacking the king, and then getting trampled into the mud as the dukes duke it out all over us.

In today's corporate republics, the likely tramplers would be big corporations, religious crusaders, organized criminals, and orphaned security forces. And we would still have government at the end of it - more government, and worse government, in most places. The painstaking, backbreaking, kindly toil of the working anarchist - feeding the hungry mouth, filling the hopeless heart, teaching the defenceless body emergency first aid and krav maga, and so forth - is not yet ripe for the harvest, if it will ever be so. It is barely even begun.

This is the reason why, though philosophically every bit as much of an anarchist as Mahatma Gandhi, I usually call myself a libertarian. I think that dominance hierarchies in general, and government by sovereign bosses in particular, are abominably rotten solutions to almost any problem imaginable. But we have yet to see stable anarchist solutions emerge, and we have yet to convince practically anyone that they are even desirable. Those jobs are going to have to be pretty well accomplished before a dream of anarchy can bloom into anything in the waking world but the red flames of terror.

We will know when and if anarchism has really got to grip with its defining problems, when we start hearing conversations like this down the pub:

MILDER: It's total anarchy in the streets today! Nice, innit?

MULDER: Yeah. Mind you, it was absolute government after the Chelsea game on Saturday!


  1. Heck, somebody's got to start the ball rolling. Or is that 'start the ball dancing?' (nevermind)

    Interesting thoughts on this. Not being a student of the politics and not understanding a whole lot of what I know, this makes sense. Most of the time I hear anarch(y/ism) presented in scathing, negative tones. (Notable exception: Escape from Terra, an excellent webcomic)

  2. Thanks for the ball and for putting me on to the comic, at which I shall shortly be having a gander!


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