"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
Real and Fake Anarchism
Exclusive to STR
September 24, 2007
People arguing for the stateless society, i.e. the abolishment of the state along with whatever coercive hierarchies in society, sometimes find themselves in a position where they hesitate to use the word best describing their position: anarchism. The reason, and this is often explicitly stated, is that anarchism often makes people think of violence, terror, and destruction. Hence, using the word makes it unnecessarily difficult to argue for the ideal.
The general public has been taught the false idea of anarchism being chaos, that is true. This idea has been further strengthened by fascists causing violence and destruction "for fun," who falsely claim to be anarchists. But anarchism as an idea or ideal has nothing to do with violence. Contrarily, anarchism is a message of peace and harmony--an ideal of non-structure, non-system, non-hierarchy, and non-force. How could that translate into burning and destroying people's possessions and violently aggressing on whoever happens to be within reach?
It can't. As most dictionaries assert, there are two distinctly different uses of the term anarchism. One of these is for the anarchism movement and the anarchism ideals, which is a definition completely devoid of violence or anything that could translate into violence. It includes direct action, but never destruction, violence, aggression, hierarchy, coercion, force, or power.
The other, which is the definition most people are aware of (and the "definition" used by the aforementioned fascists) is the statist interpretation of any non-system--a conclusion of what a free society would be like based on a Hobbesian view of man. This use of the term anarchism is simply nothing but the utterly false idea that people necessarily lose any sense of morality if they are not forcefully subjected to a set of rules. According to this view, anarchism is and must be the Hobbesian state of nature--a never-ending "war of all against all."
As I have discussed elsewhere, this view is based on an obvious contradiction: if people literally go berserk, as a consequence of short-term self interest, whenever they are not forced to respect other people, then how could individuals agree, as Hobbes argues, for the sake of the common good (i.e., their long-term interests), to set up a force-based structure to enforce a certain number of rules/rights? The premise necessarily makes the Hobbesian conclusion invalid--the argument is nothing but false.
It is however necessary to follow this line of faulty logic one step further, actually adding errors, in order to denote the individuals in the destruction-loving fascist movement "anarchists." Based on the Hobbesian world view, these people, who destroy property and violently aggress on fellow human beings (we've seen them take part in protests against e.g. the WTO or World Bank), should not exist--there is an existing coercive structure forcefully enforcing a set of rules--the State--which rules out such violent behavior, according to the Hobbesian premise.
These people enjoying destruction and violence sometimes do call themselves anarchists, but they certainly know nothing about it. It should be obvious that most of them share the Hobbesian world view--they strive for chaos and destruction--and claim they "work" to liberate the world from imposed order.
One does not have to think twice to clearly see the contradiction in this claim. Apart from the inherent contradiction in their world view, the claim itself is but a naked contradiction--it cannot be formulated in a more obvious fashion than this. If these individuals are truly opposed to the forcefully imposed order of the State, then how do they expect to liberate the people of this enforced order through violently overthrowing the State, thereby replacing it with their order? They are, in their actions, behaving in the exact same way as the State.
It should thus be concluded that these people, falsely claiming to be anarchists, are nothing but the most true believers in statist means. They personally and in unison act as a competing State wanting to occupy the territory and replace the present regime with their own. How can anyone believe their enforced "freedom" in any way would be better than the rule of the State? After all, the State in many ways tries to enforce the illusion of it not being an inherently violent entity, thereby restraining itself somewhat in the use of force--but the self-proclaimed anarchists do not even try to hide the fact that they are interested in force and power and would literally kill for it. Thus, it is reasonable to expect their rule to be even worse than that of the state. Even if they call it "liberty."
Understandably, real anarchists do not wish to end up in the same category as these fascists in people's eyes--they are after all the very opposite of anarchists. But not using the word anarchism to describe one's ideals does not make it easier in any way to spread the ideals and ideas. Not using the word does not only mean one tries to avoid being labeled fascist. It also means distancing yourself from the ideal, which effectively means distancing yourself as well as your arguments and your ideas from the movement and the historical roots of anarchism.
In other words, by not using the word anarchism to describe one's obvious anarchist ideals, one creates the illusion of arguing for a set of ideals not related in any way with the founders of the tradition of thought. It indirectly means disqualifying Proudhon, Tucker, Rothbard, Kropotkin and other great anarchist thinkers who explicitly used the term. It also means aligning them with the true statists through abandoning the term correctly describing your ideals of individualism, peace, and harmony.
We should recognize the fact that there is a real anarchism, based on the premise of every individual's inviolate right to self, and a logically and ideologically corrupt fake "anarchism." The term should be used in the former sense, as often as possible--to restore the honor of our movement, our tradition, our history, and our reputation.