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Thursday, May 10, 2007

What Should Anarchists Do?

This comment was recently posted to this site:

Thanks for introducing me to Bob Black - I'd not heard of him before (at the risk of sounding ignorant). I've started reading his "Abolition of Work". I've also been pondering what it is that anarchists DO. Anarchism sounds very cerebral(for lack of a better word - as I've only just started exploring anarchism), but how is one an anarchist in practise? Are anarchists not also just paid employees, part of "the system"?

Good question that deserve answers. The latter, first. Well, no one gets paid to be an anarchist (or shouldn't be). At the heart of anarchism is a strong rejection of authority, and entering into a wage relationship violates that stance. Of course, many anarchists do work in regular jobs, and, like everyone else, are part and parcel of the very system that oppresses us. The system (the state and resulting economic, social and political relationships) is so entrenched and intertwined that it is damn near impossible not to be part of it as an individual. Many of us even contribute positively to the state. This is why simple reforms of the system are not enough for an anarchist; the whole system must go in order for human freedom to be achieved.

What is an anarchist to do? I don't have all the answers, but only some partial ones. There is a "doctrine" of anarchism involving propaganda. Anarchist should seek to spread the message about anarchism through visual, audio, written and spoken communication. This, amongst anarchists, is quite a popular. In most places, anarchism has survived (the history of anarchism is a long one of defeat) through books, pamphlets, and the Internet (which has a strong anarchist undercurrent). This site is an example of that doctrine.

The other main anarchist "doctrine" is anarchism by deed. This has included the uprisings, armed conflict, and assassinations. But also it includes (at least in my book) protesting, hacking, and other forms of non-violent resistance. Further, there is living in accordance with the morals and behaviours that anarchism espouses like respect for other people, collective decision-making, and not engaging in repression. Helping other people out and reducing suffering also seem like anarchist values.

Like I said before, I don't have all the answers about anarchism in action. But, promoting anarchism does help to remind us all that there is another possible and better world. It gives us hope that we don't have to continue suffering like we are now; keeping the dream of freedom, individual and collective, alive has to be worth something. George Woodcock had this to say about the value of anarchism:

Obviously it [anarchism] is not immediately realizable, it will probably never be realized. But the very presence of such a concept of pure liberty can help us to judge our conditions and see our aims; it can help to safeguard what liberties we still retain against further encroachments of the centralizing state; it can help in the urgent task of mere survival, of living out the critical decades ahead until the movement of world centralization loses its impetus like all historical movements, and the moral forces that depend on individual choice and judgement [sic] can reassert themselves in the midst of its corruption.



  • Nice post, Tristen. When I first came across anarchism, I thought "wow, most of this makes so much sense - why doesn't everyone else see it?" In the end, I think most of us find ourself fairly isolated as conscious anarchists, although I think there are a lot of people who are actually closer to anarchism than they're aware of.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10:42 am  

  • Thanks. It kind of depends what one means by anarchism; if it is living outside of a state, then that has been the normal situation for human society. The modern state is a fairly recent phenomenon.

    However, I've found that when people are pushed on their political opinions, the thought of leaving behind the state scares the living hell out of people.

    By Blogger Tristen, At 12:10 pm  

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