The Independent

Anarchism is not Anarchy

Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. | Photo: Ilya Repine | Lev Tolstoy, Writer, Anarchism, Author,

A Growing Misconception

Most people will never read the works of late 18th and mid-19th century socialistic and communistic philosophers and theorists. Instead, at best, the majority will only receive an abridged and limited education on certain anarchistic economic/social principles credited to Karl Marx. Most will be unaware of the numerous other anarchistic theorists who existed before and after Marx, and most people will simply associate anarchism with disorder, no rules, violence, and chaos.

"The capitalistic organization will pass into the hands of workers, and then there will be no more oppression of these workers, and no unequal distribution of earnings." [Marxist]

"But who will establish the works; who will administer them?" [Anarchist]

"It will go on of its own accord; the workmen themselves will arrange everything." [Marxist]

"But the capitalistic organization was established just because, for every practical affair, there is need for administrators furnished with power. If there be work, there will be leadership, administrators with power. And when there is power, there will be abuse of it " the very thing against which you are now striving." [Anarchist]

---Leo Tolstoy, 1900

To be fair, certain sects within the school of anarchy, have historically and sometimes currently resorted to a, "by any means necessary", mantra that in my view of anarchism, violates the core principle - which is ending human-on-human exploitation.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, born January 15, 1809, Besan?on, France and died January 19, 1865, Passy, Paris, France, was a French politician, the founder of Mutualist philosophy. He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist and is among its most influential theorists. He is considered by many to be the "father of anarchism". | Photo: Archives |
As Joseph Pierre Proudhon (some would say one of the modern founding fathers of anarchism) alluded to, violence is the simplest form of oppression one can wield to exploit another human/animal with. What is left after you drive off the oppressors with violence besides new violent oppressors?

Working within governments that have gone astray, in order to realign social, political, and economic institutions, so the majority of citizens are not being exploited or oppressed by those very same institutions, is what anarchism boils down to. When I say, "governments that have gone astray", I mean when governing institutions non-democratically involve the nation in ill-serving policies and pass laws and regulations that no longer serve the general welfare. Hierarchical based governing institutions end up ruling over the citizens, even using unjustified violence against them (which includes the majority of governments in the world, including ours here in the United States to a certain degree).

Realigning where the justification for regulations and laws come from, and whom those laws and regulations are ultimately held accountable to, that is what anarchism seeks to bestow upon societies. Switzerland has been using some of the anarchistic principles modern anarchist theorists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries advocated for, including decentralized direct democracy, and being pacifistic (as a state). Switzerland also enjoys a standard of living that I think most of us would find agreeable, and while progression still needs to occur there, they present a real world example on how two anarchistic principles (direct democracy/pacifism) work really well in practice.

Experimenting with more democracy to objectively determine if it benefits the public good, is just one part of anarchism from the founding fathers of the modern philosophy. Those anarchists were also interested in realigning how we structured business entities, and the role of the laborer, and an end of commodifying human life through wage labor and private ownership over the means of production.

That realignment of our economic principles is also achieved democratically, bringing democracy to the workplace via worker-owned-enterprises, that's an anarchistic idea, and one that we find in practice (even in a capitalist dominated world), has proven a small success so far, and further experimentation with worker-owned-enterprises are warranted.

Anarchism isn't about no rules or laws or order, it's about no rulers, as in self-governance via democracy at the local level first. It is about laws, not designed, passed, and enforced by a self-serving minority comprised of transnational special interests, but laws and regulations that require democratic participation, and are recallable by the majority at any time those laws and regulations end up oppressing or exploiting those same citizens.

The way to get there is by shifting our current system, by first enacting dual-powers, a Jeffersonian approach, and what California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome advocates for. Once we have dual powers, we can transition completely away from representative democracy, which in practice, most times than not, only represents a minority.

Anarchism doesn't require burning streets, the displacement of the upper-class, and especially doesn't require violence. It is a simple shifting towards personal autonomy, how far we get there depends on the current governing and economic systems we choose within our societies. Anarchism isn't infallible, it is not an end all, it's a step towards designing better systems to arrange societies off of.

For some anarchists, I would say, especially of Proudhon, and those that follow his line of reasoning, society is a very beneficial thing for human beings. Societies also have rules and laws, but those rules and laws need to be at the democratic invitation and control of the citizens those rules and laws are created for.

That's anarchism.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 11:59 AM EDT | More details

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