"[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
STR: A Glorious Decade of Radicalism
Column by Per Bylund.
Exclusive to STR
For the five-year anniversary, I wrote a column about the value of a site like Strike The Root. I argued that the main problem to making anarchism an attractive social theory is its lack of guarantees. Rather than basing our worldview on the illusion of a stable and never-changing core to which we can fix and around which we can organize our lives, anarchism fundamentally argues that there is no such thing. There are no guarantees. Government certainly isn’t one.
This appears to be the problem for most statists, whether with a fetish for small or big government, to seriously consider anarchism, not to speak of accepting anarchism as a valid worldview. We all detest insecurity and uncertainty, which is why so many of us cling to the idea of the State providing central planning to promote stability, security, and relief. Yet if any kind of organization has been proven to be volatile, it is the State. The illusion, however, seems to persist.
While this is a problem to both peace, prosperity, and our attempts at recruiting people to the anarchist movement, what we should realize is a major obstacle to changing the world in a peaceful direction is the relevance of anarchism. Our size is irrelevant if our ideas are.
Of course, our ideas are far from irrelevant. And this means the limited size of our movement may be a practical impediment to quickly putting society back on the right track. But whereas oppressive democracy only counts the number of heads in favor and not, anarchism is not about the kind of rule inherent to democratic government. We may utilize direct democracy in local chapters or organizations, but this has hardly anything to do with the popular voting taking place every few years or the daily yeas and nays by the ruling class. What matters is the individual and his or her wants and wishes. We therefore only need to count to one; only one oppressed, coerced, taxed, or otherwise violated individual is an outrage.
The question we need to address is how we make this peaceful idea of voluntarism relevant. It certainly is relevant to us, but why not to more? And why do so many rely on threats and violence to forcefully organize society? People are generally peaceful and respectful, so it does not make sense that they so wholly support their oppressor, the State. So our ideas should be relevant. They should be welcomed by most, if not all.
But they are not. And forcing someone to listen to our arguments is counterproductive in so many ways I do not even need to mention why. So we need to have patience and respectfully allow people to come to the conclusion that they are but serfs in a world molded by the ruling class. Democracy is a sham and an illusion, and serves only to grant our unproductive rulers legitimacy to continue to feed off our efforts. People will come to us in time, and we need to patiently and consistently show that our alternative is the moral one. We stand for peace and liberty and respect; nobody else does.
But to be prepared to welcome others and help them overcome their statist schooling, we need to exchange ideas and perfect our arguments. This is where Strike The Root offers anarchists the necessary infrastructure; we share thoughts and ideas and argue for different interpretations and test our ideas. This has been an invaluable service to our movement for ten years and counting. But Strike The Root could have more to offer through assisting anarchists in organizing our own liberty while patiently preparing to help deprogram those who were intellectually stuck in the preachings of mainstream media and political correctness but realized something was not right.
Having found the truth is simply not sufficient. Knowing that we could be free, but that most people will not allow us to live our lives to the fullest is frustrating. It is infuriating. But this is the sad truth of our statist society in which we all are given a role to play in government’s great plan. Breaking free from our chains requires violence against our fellow men, all those people who are not evil but have been miseducated to believe we all must live a certain way. And violence is a despicable means; violence is the means and end of statism, and the very opposite of anarchism. Our means toward freedom must adhere to our ideals of peace and respect.
But there are ways to peacefully and respectfully bring about freedom without necessarily challenging all of society. We can save the world through saving ourselves. A very viable way forward is to create alternative societies in your own neighborhood and bring people in bit by bit. All we need to do is withdraw our support by stop feeding the beast, while allowing ourselves, our friends and neighbors to keep the full value of their labor. The best way to teach others about the superiority of anarchism as a social theory is to live it ourselves and invite others to join us – at their own pace.
To bring about freedom in our time, all we need to do is take the first step. This is where Strike The Root has an enormously important role to play, the editor and us willing, for the next decade and the future. We have the infrastructure for sharing and exchanging ideas; the next step is to extend the infrastructure to include support for saving ourselves and living out of the State’s reach. What we need is the infrastructure to trade products and services or share contacts that we can trust for local exchange without government intrusion. The question is, are we up for taking that step? To trade and engage in exchange for mutual benefit under the radar; to create an alternative institutional framework from the bottom up, with potential to replace government with voluntary associations.
Freedom is ours to take if we want it. But it requires action. Strike The Root can offer the inspiration and ideas, as well as the contacts to make it possible. Let’s replace the State from the bottom up!