I don't get anarchists

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ReeferMadness
I don't get anarchists

I wasn't sure where to put this so I decided to file it under philosophy which would go under humanities.

ReeferMadness

With the prominent role that anarchists played in the recent Olympics protests, I've been wondering about what exactly anarchy is supposed to look like.  Frankly, I don't get it, except on a very basic emotional level or making utopian assumptions about how people would behave.  If you remove government you aren't going to remove competition.  You will, however, remove the ability to ameliorate the effects of competition.  I understand why the Ayn Rand followers want to eliminate government, although I disagree with them.  But what are the anarchists who employed the "black bloc" tactics about?

Are there any babblers who can comment?

Le T Le T's picture

There are as many anarchies as there are anarchists. I am an anarchist and I can tell you that part of what it means to me (when contrasted against leftists) is organizing without power hierchies between people. It is also, for me, a belief that different communities are going to organize differently and instead of having "mass movement" we aim for solidarity between communities. Finding groups that have affinity around issues and helping eachother take on theses issues from our own angles. On a more concrete note, most anarchists (my self included) do not believe in voting or electoral democracy (at least as it exists in state systems).

There are many, many books by anarchists and talks that you could go to. There is an anarchy book fair coming to Toronto this summer and a bunch all over Quebec every year.

What anarchy is not is chaos. This is what the media and non-anarchists tend to tell you.

Polunatic2

I can understand not putting much stock in electoral politics given that it's a rigged game. it's harder to understand "not believing" in it at all. Why not work to reform the voting system so that everyone has an equal and effective vote? How can a popular consensus ever be developed around particular issues if no one were to vote? Who gets to decide? 

ReeferMadness

If you get a group of people together for any purpose for any length of time, leaders are going to emerge and power hiearchies will develop.  Sometimes violently.  That's the natural behaviour of social animals.  You may not have formal power hiearchies but they're there nonetheless.

How do you make group decisions in the absence of government?  How do you run a sewage system?  How do you prevent some of the local communities from doing things that will foul the air or the water?

How do you prevent someone (like, say, organized crime) from coming in and establishing rule by force?

Le T Le T's picture

Quote:
I can understand not putting much stock in electoral politics given that it's a rigged game. it's harder to understand "not believing" in it at all. Why not work to reform the voting system so that everyone has an equal and effective vote? How can a popular consensus ever be developed around particular issues if no one were to vote? Who gets to decide?

By "not believing in" i mean philosophically/tactically opposed to. It's like how socialists (and most anarchists) do not believe in the free market's inherent goodness.

 

Quote:
If you get a group of people together for any purpose for any length of time, leaders are going to emerge and power hiearchies will develop. Sometimes violently. That's the natural behaviour of social animals. You may not have formal power hiearchies but they're there nonetheless.

You're right. That is what we are taught to believe but it is not actually true. I would be careful about making sweeping statements about the "natural behaviour of social animals".

 

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How do you make group decisions in the absence of government? How do you run a sewage system? How do you prevent some of the local communities from doing things that will foul the air or the water?

How do you prevent someone (like, say, organized crime) from coming in and establishing rule by force?

So these are *not* problems that have occured under capitalist, communist, and post-capitalist and communist societies?

Again, anarchism is not an absense of government or order. It is the absense of hierarchical government and violently enforced order to serve the few.

 

It's funny that most people bring up the war lord scenario that you have with your organized crime question. Isn't this already what we have but the war lords are states? You just happen to live on the right side of the gun.

 

oldgoat

It's regrettable that the very term "anarchy" has come to be almost synonimous with chaos within the popular lexicon, and has been so for a very long time. Anarchists should try to reclaim it's origina and technical meaning, which is of course 'absence of hierarchy'.

Geeze, if only you people could get better organized. Maybe select an organizational body to speak and act for you worldwide?

kalin

Hi ReeferMadness. Le T is right that "there are as many anarchies as there are anarchists." There is no canonical form of "what anarchism is," except, perhaps, for the basic understanding that authority and control exerted over people is illegitimate and wrong unless it has legitimized its existence for some reason: see the rote description professor Noam Chomsky uses when talking to the media.

Some anarchists make a distrinction between "anarchy" and "anarchism" even though opponents classify both as violence and chaos (which is kind of silly given how the violent the state-capitalist system has been). The notion of a "state of anarchy" is indeed a utopian ideal, and there are many anarchists who do not believe that a fabled end-goal is achievable or even desirable. An alternative philosophy of anarchism is focused on challenging, deconstructing, and dismantling systems of power and domination, which exist in varied and layered forms, including the state, capitalism, colonialism, racism, patriarchy, etc. With that said, 'social-science-fiction' writer Ursula K. Le Guin wrote a pretty great novel imagining what such an anarchistic society could look like - it's called "The Dispossessed." Won several awards, worth reading if you're interested.

The history of anarchism is long and complicated though, too much so to go explain it all away for you -- but from its inception as a workers movement in the 19th century, to the Spanish Civil War and the birth of an anarchist society in Catalunya, to "autonomous spaces" like Christiania in Denmark, Exarchia in Greece, the youth/squat-culture across Europe, the Green Anarchy movement, to the worker cooperatives in Argentina there are many different visions and possibilities for what could constitute a liberated community-based way of life.

The anarchist book fairs in Toronto/Montreal promise to be good spaces for learning not just in specifc to anarchism but also activism in general - I've heard there will be speaking events/training workshops and such as well. So could be worth folks' time.

Lou Arab Lou Arab's picture

Le T wrote:

Quote:
If you get a group of people together for any purpose for any length of time, leaders are going to emerge and power hiearchies will develop. Sometimes violently. That's the natural behaviour of social animals. You may not have formal power hiearchies but they're there nonetheless.

You're right. That is what we are taught to believe but it is not actually true. I would be careful about making sweeping statements about the "natural behaviour of social animals".

I hope this doesn't come off as baiting (it's more of a 'devil's advocate' kind of thing) but what if I don't want to be an equal part of a movement?  What if I care about a cause, but don't think I have the expertise that others bring to the table?  Or what if I just don't have the time to do more than be a 'loyal foot soldier' or donate some money, and I want someone else to take the lead who have the time and energy to do so?

 

Le T Le T's picture

You're right oldgoat. It was actually an active attempt to discredit anarchists in the late 19th century US that I think created that wrong-headed understanding of anarchy in North America.

I also think that anarchism, although a european political philosophy, shares a lot of common ground with non-European traditions of social organization that existed well before the 19th century.

Thanks for the post kalin. I was trying to just do a bit of a drive-by post to get things started. I know that there are some other anarchists on babble that i'm sure will have something to say.

 

ETA: I really like Chomsky's description of the "burden of proof" being on those who exercise power to prove it as legitimate. I don't like how he seems to be supporting WW2 as "stopping facism".

Le T Le T's picture

Quote:
What if I care about a cause, but don't think I have the expertise that others bring to the table? Or what if I just don't have the time to do more than be a 'loyal foot soldier' or donate some money, and I want someone else to take the lead who have the time and energy to do so?

Then you are a liberal and have very little faith in your abilities and talents. A big part of anarchism for me is reclaiming the ability to do things that we have been told again and again that we cannnot.

Lou Arab Lou Arab's picture

Le T wrote:

Quote:
What if I care about a cause, but don't think I have the expertise that others bring to the table? Or what if I just don't have the time to do more than be a 'loyal foot soldier' or donate some money, and I want someone else to take the lead who have the time and energy to do so?

Then you are a liberal and have very little faith in your abilities and talents. A big part of anarchism for me is reclaiming the ability to do things that we have been told again and again that we cannnot.

Oh I don't think that's fair at all.  This isn't the early renassance when all knowledge was obtainable by individuals.  We all have our fields of expertise, and our fields of interest.

If someone's dedicated their lives to the study of geology (as a random example) they might not know much about women's reproductive health.  However, they know they want women to have access to safe abortions if they need them.   Are you seriously saying that everyone who takes that position (over half the Canadian population in most polls) has to get active?  Do they have to get active on every single issue they have an opinion on? I have opinions on lots of things, possibly thousands of issues (I'm very opinionated) do I need to get active on all of them?  That doesn't seem fair to my family.

And on that note, what about the single parent who has to hold down a couple of jobs just to keep wolf from the door. She should have lots of opinions, but sometimes you have to take the kids to soccer, work the night shift, or just make dinner, ya know?  Do you really expect that we all have to be equally involved in every progressive cause out there?

 

ReeferMadness

This conversation seems to be meandering.  Rather than debating minutiae, maybe we can bring this up a level.  So far, I'm hearing more about what anarchy isn't than what it is.  If you're worried about speaking for all anarchists, then don't.  Just speak for yourself.

Tell me how things would be different under an anarchist society.  Will there still be a system of justice?  Who will administer it?  If there are no experts does that mean there are no doctors?  No engineers?  No lawyers?  (well, OK, I'm happy about the last one). 

Will you eliminate the tax department?  If you do, how will you fund public works?

kalin

@ Lou Arab - I don't think it's our responsibility to answer a myriad of hypotheticals you may be pondering. I'm not fnding many of them helpful in general, and I think you're probably capable of formulating suitable answers witohut our help. (For instance, one answer could be that in an anarchistic social fabric nobody would be forced to participate in disciplines or causes they don't believe in or have time for, and conversely would be free to do what interested them, but that a all societies require basic things like shelter, food, etc. which would probably be collective responsibilities - and the 'punishment' for not helping the community would be simply not receiving help from it in return. This is just one idea.)

@ReeferMadness - The justice system, taxation, and 'public works' are all pretty statist concepts to begin with, don't you think? The first two assume an enforcer. The last assumes the government is the public (the 'people'). On the topic of expertise: anarchism is not the best system if your priority is efficiency. That's what capitalism is for, and it's been very efficient at production of product and profit as well as destruction of planet and harmony. Anarchism is much more 'difficult' than capitalism or representative democracy because it is meant to support greatest freedom of choice for the individual while still maintaining collective solidarity - if you've ever worked with in a group situation that decided on consensus-based decision-making over strict majoritarian voting, you probably know what I mean. I'm sure that an anarchistic society could incorporate professionals such as doctors and engineers. You can't have lawyers if you don't have the law, though.

kalin

Again, we are arguing in hypotheticals here, and it's probably not for the best. I would urge you to consider anarchism not as a political theory that envisions a standardised social structure applied to any/all localities, but rather a theory- and action-based program for confronting oppressive systems.

Lou Arab Lou Arab's picture

kalin wrote:

@ Lou Arab - I don't think it's our responsibility to answer a myriad of hypotheticals you may be pondering. I'm not fnding many of them helpful in general, and I think you're probably capable of formulating suitable answers witohut our help. (For instance, one answer could be that in an anarchistic social fabric nobody would be forced to participate in disciplines or causes they don't believe in or have time for, and conversely would be free to do what interested them, but that a all societies require basic things like shelter, food, etc. which would probably be collective responsibilities - and the 'punishment' for not helping the community would be simply not receiving help from it in return. This is just one idea.)

Well, I'll happily concede that you have no responsibility to answer my questions.  I pose them in the spirt of good discussion and debate.  When I'm engaged about my social democratic beliefs, I'm generally pretty happy to engage.  And that's face to face.  I've never posted on babble that 'it's not my responsibility to answer' questions about the NDP.  If I don't think it's my responsibility, and I'm not interested, I just don't engage.

My comments above were more directed to the discussion of anarchy not within an anaristic society, but within social movements in the world we live in now.  I was interested in Le T's comments about "organizing without power hierchies between people." It doesn't seem realistic to me, so I thought I'd ask a few questions.

1springgarden

Anarchism does not mean no organization.  There is anarchist tradition of using voluntary systems of organization to advance common needs: collectives and federations (delegates with mandates system).  Consumer co-operatives, worker co-operatives, credit unions and anarcho-syndicalist unions are part of the the anarchist organizational tradition.  See also Guild Socialism and Council Communism for related organizational concepts.

Joey Ramone

I'm not sure I would call myself an "anarchist", because I have not read enough political theory to be sure I qualify for that label.  However, I have no problem with being described as a "libertarian" socialist. 25-30 years ago, when I was in my early 20s I would probably have described myself simply as a Marxist or Marxist-Leninist, but my 30 odd years as an activist have taught me a few things that can only be learned through activism.  I now think that big government and bureaucracy are very often bad things which should be avoided when possible.  Government owned businesses should be avoided wherever possible, in favour of democratic, worker owned economies.  I have also come to believe that real socialism is impossible without freedom of speech, a free media, political democracy and an independent judiciary accountable to the people they serve.  These conditions do not exist in many societies whose ruling elites claim to be "socialist", but are in fact, in my view, anti-socialist dictatorships hypocritically using socialist and anti-imperialist rhetoric.  China comes to mind.

As for how activists and movements organize themselves, I am opposed to hierarchy, but not opposed to structures which are democratic and thoroughly accountable to the grassroots.  Structurelessness, I have learned, is often worse than hierarchy, since certain personalities will end up running structureless movements and, without rules making them accountable to the grassroots, the "tyranny of structureless" often results.

Maybe someone who defines himself or herself as an anarchist can tell me whether I am one.

 

remind remind's picture

then some anarchists must believe humans are different 'social animals' than animals really are as "social animals", because they have hierarchies.

 

Having said that I believe humans being different social animals than animals are, means that we can at some point in the future act and or evolve past hierarchial haves and have notes. But I am not naive enough to believe it could happen anytime soon, we are no where near as advanced as what the Masai are, or perhaps were precontact.

 

 

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

oldgoat wrote:
Geeze, if only you people could get better organized. Maybe select an organizational body to speak and act for you worldwide?

Cough, cough, First International, cough, cough

ReeferMadness

kalin wrote:

 

@ReeferMadness - The justice system, taxation, and 'public works' are all pretty statist concepts to begin with, don't you think? The first two assume an enforcer. The last assumes the government is the public (the 'people').

Of course they're statist concepts.  I currently live in a state and that state, for all its flaws, provides some services I consider valuable.  If the state disappears, how will those services be delivered?

Quote:

On the topic of expertise: anarchism is not the best system if your priority is efficiency. That's what capitalism is for, and it's been very efficient at production of product and profit as well as destruction of planet and harmony.

I don't consider capitalism efficient.  On the contrary, capitalism is defined by tiny islands of hyper-efficiency in a huge sea of egregious waste.  Individual corporate processes (e.g. manufacturing) are tuned to maximum efficiency but some processes (marketing, sales, legal) are mostly waste because they add very little value to the finished product.  They serve only to support the competitive aspect of capitalism.  Some industries (e.g. investment banking) exist only to suck value out of the real economy.  Having dozens or even hundreds of brands of identical products whose only purpose is market differentiation is certainly not efficient.  Finally, the purpose of the entire capitalist machine is to get repeat customers.  To that end, products are shoddily made, regularly go out of fashion, frequently become obsolete or require frequent purchase of consumables.  Capitalism is anything but efficient.

Quote:

Anarchism is much more 'difficult' than capitalism or representative democracy because it is meant to support greatest freedom of choice for the individual while still maintaining collective solidarity - if you've ever worked with in a group situation that decided on consensus-based decision-making over strict majoritarian voting, you probably know what I mean. I'm sure that an anarchistic society could incorporate professionals such as doctors and engineers. You can't have lawyers if you don't have the law, though.

Consensus decision making is great when you can get it but it can have problems.  A single strong-willed individual can can hold the group hostage or worse, sink the group's goal completely.  Consensus decision making can also have perverse results when more motivated group members are more willing to compromise just to get some of what they want.  This gives members who care less about a certain goal more power over whether it's achieved.  The biggest problem is that consensus building becomes increasingly difficult as the size and diversity of the group grows.  You're not going to build the Trans Canada highway or determine international fishing quotas by consensus.

ReeferMadness

kalin wrote:

 

@ReeferMadness - The justice system, taxation, and 'public works' are all pretty statist concepts to begin with, don't you think? The first two assume an enforcer. The last assumes the government is the public (the 'people').

Of course they're statist concepts.  I currently live in a state and that state, for all its flaws, provides some services I consider valuable.  If the state disappears, how will those services be delivered?

Quote:

On the topic of expertise: anarchism is not the best system if your priority is efficiency. That's what capitalism is for, and it's been very efficient at production of product and profit as well as destruction of planet and harmony.

I don't consider capitalism efficient.  On the contrary, capitalism is defined by tiny islands of hyper-efficiency in a huge sea of egregious waste.  Individual corporate processes (e.g. manufacturing) are tuned to maximum efficiency but some processes (marketing, sales, legal) are mostly waste because they add very little value to the finished product.  They serve only to support the competitive aspect of capitalism.  Some industries (e.g. investment banking) exist only to suck value out of the real economy.  Having dozens or even hundreds of brands of identical products whose only purpose is market differentiation is certainly not efficient.  Finally, the purpose of the entire capitalist machine is to get repeat customers.  To that end, products are shoddily made, regularly go out of fashion, frequently become obsolete or require frequent purchase of consumables.  Capitalism is anything but efficient.

Quote:

Anarchism is much more 'difficult' than capitalism or representative democracy because it is meant to support greatest freedom of choice for the individual while still maintaining collective solidarity - if you've ever worked with in a group situation that decided on consensus-based decision-making over strict majoritarian voting, you probably know what I mean. I'm sure that an anarchistic society could incorporate professionals such as doctors and engineers. You can't have lawyers if you don't have the law, though.

Consensus decision making is great when you can get it but it can have problems.  A single strong-willed individual can can hold the group hostage or worse, sink the group's goal completely.  Consensus decision making can also have perverse results when more motivated group members are more willing to compromise just to get some of what they want.  This gives members who care less about a certain goal more power over whether it's achieved.  The biggest problem is that consensus building becomes increasingly difficult as the size and diversity of the group grows.  You're not going to build the Trans Canada highway or determine international fishing quotas by consensus.

Le T Le T's picture

Quote:
Again, we are arguing in hypotheticals here, and it's probably not for the best. I would urge you to consider anarchism not as a political theory that envisions a standardised social structure applied to any/all localities, but rather a theory- and action-based program for confronting oppressive systems.

I think that this is what a lot of people that come from a socialist or soclal dem background don't get. Anarchisms tend to be process (praxis) based. A lot of socialism still takes a Marxist eutopia for granted or holds it as an ideal.

 

kalin

ReeferMadness wrote:

Of course they're statist concepts.  I currently live in a state and that state, for all its flaws, provides some services I consider valuable.  If the state disappears, how will those services be delivered?

They can be delivered through community organisations and people working together to deliver them in ways that don't rely on coercive or unduly hierarchical institutions to succeed. I have never heard of an anarchism that promotes the destruction of health care or welfare (this is for the corporatist liberatarians); we are about community solidarity and taking care of ALL members of society, following the classic equity paradigm "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

Quote:

I don't consider capitalism efficient.  On the contrary, capitalism is defined by tiny islands of hyper-efficiency in a huge sea of egregious waste.  Individual corporate processes (e.g. manufacturing) are tuned to maximum efficiency but some processes (marketing, sales, legal) are mostly waste because they add very little value to the finished product.  They serve only to support the competitive aspect of capitalism.  Some industries (e.g. investment banking) exist only to suck value out of the real economy.  Having dozens or even hundreds of brands of identical products whose only purpose is market differentiation is certainly not efficient.  Finally, the purpose of the entire capitalist machine is to get repeat customers.  To that end, products are shoddily made, regularly go out of fashion, frequently become obsolete or require frequent purchase of consumables.  Capitalism is anything but efficient.

Yeah, absolutely, this is all true. But it's not really what I meant. The capitalist organising model has succeeded on its own terms: producing more material goods for its members than any other socioeconomic model has ever done, rapidly advancing technological innovations, astronomical wealth for a few (and really, the relative material wealth of most Westerners to [post-]colonized societies and relative to the planet's capacity is stll exorbitant). Corporate capitalism is essentially economic dictatorship, with decisions made at the top and filtering down the hierarchy - in this way, it is is efficient. In other words, the products that are "shoddily made, regularly go out of fashion, frequently become obsolete, etc." exist because durability is not the goal of capitalist production: profit is. All those realities exist because capitalism is about creating more capital by whatever means necessary, and "planned obsolescence" is just one tactic to further that end.

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The biggest problem is that consensus building becomes increasingly difficult as the size and diversity of the group grows.  You're not going to build the Trans Canada highway or determine international fishing quotas by consensus.

Right, likely so. The Trans-Canada Highway was built using what essentially amounts to slave labour, as have been many "accomplishments" of "civilization." If we accept that consensus makes such mega-projects impossible (unlikely or extremely difficult might be better qualifiers), the question then becomes: do we value the Trans-Canada Highway more than social justice? Is material comfort more important for personal happiness (or just more important) than freedom or vice versa? Does the relative simplicity or ease of a decision-making process outweigh our ideal of democracy? These types of questions are explored in "The Dispossessed," and are generally questions an anarchist political theory would ask; you can probably guess which side it would come down on.

Le T Le T's picture

Quote:
Oh I don't think that's fair at all. This isn't the early renassance when all knowledge was obtainable by individuals. We all have our fields of expertise, and our fields of interest.

But we're talking about social change, Lou, not heart surgery. I'm not saying that supporting activists with money makes you bad. The mindset that you can pay people to be the change for you is just a very liberal-minded one--change through the usual means. I also firmly believe that you do not need specialists to change society. If you organize in a group there will be a variety of talents, privilege, experience and skills that the group can make use of. Anarchism for me provides for freedom of the individual but that does not mean that an individual person can function alone.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

ReeferMadness wrote:

If you get a group of people together for any purpose for any length of time, leaders are going to emerge and power hiearchies will develop.  Sometimes violently.  That's the natural behaviour of social animals.  You may not have formal power hiearchies but they're there nonetheless.

How do you make group decisions in the absence of government?  How do you run a sewage system?  How do you prevent some of the local communities from doing things that will foul the air or the water?

How do you prevent someone (like, say, organized crime) from coming in and establishing rule by force?

Anarchy has had many different streams.  The one that I believe in is called Mutual Aid and in fact Kropotkin's book by the same name is a scientific work that came out after people started misusing Darwin's' theory to say that it is the survival of the fittest that drives change.  Darwin showed it is the survival of the fittest species not individualism but that is not the popular view of his research.  Kropotkin's Mutual Aid looked at the world of animals and insects and then "primitive" cultures. [his language is very 19th century sometimes]

Anarchy is seen as a system of human relationships that is primarily based on the economic unit as the building block of society except that unlike in a capitalist or communist system the individual units of the economy are democratically controlled by the people who co-own the enterprise.  There is no top down authority rather there is democracy at that level.  Those groups much like the internets web make various protocols with other similar groups and they begin interacting on the basis of Mutual Aid and benefits follow in a two way direction unlike Canada's branch plant economy.  

The syndicalist side of the equation is in use now in Europe with Mondragon.  It has become very big and successful and it takes care of its people because of the Spanish governments decades old ruling that since these workers owned their own production they were not eligible for workers benefits provided by the state,  They had to build there own schools hospitals, day cares  and even a university to provide for their own community. However there are many people who think its shear size has made it into a mutant that is not quite capitalist and not quite anarchist.

The Olympic Village is one of the many many temporary protest camps that run on anarchist principles. Activists hate it when the control freaks start to tell them how to act and much prefer the relative "chaos" of talking face to face until people feel they have been listened to and respected.  

Quote:

ANARCHISM (from the Gr. an and archos, contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent - for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary - as is seen in organic life at large - harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the state.

If, it is contended, society were organized on these principles, man would not be limited in the free exercise of his powers in productive work by a capitalist monopoly, maintained by the state; nor would he be limited in the exercise of his will by a fear of punishment, or by obedience towards individuals or metaphysical entities, which both lead to depression of initiative and servility of mind. He would be guided in his actions by his own understanding, which necessarily would bear the impression of a free action and reaction between his own self and the ethical conceptions of his surroundings. Man would thus be enabled to obtain the full development of all his faculties, intellectual, artistic and moral, without being hampered by overwork for the monopolists, or by the servility and inertia of mind of the great number. He would thus be able to reach full individualization, which is not possible either under the present system of individualism, or under any system of state socialism in the so-called Volkstaat (popular state).

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The Tent Village is deeply decentralized, no one person is really in an overall leadership position or understands the totality of the functioning of the Village. While this may seem disorganized and a weakness to some, this structure has really allowed the Village to flourish as individuals step-in and take responsibility for areas and undertake tasks they feel they are most capable for. Decisions that many of us, as original organizers, had made were quickly debated in a series of meetings involving the participation of all those involved in Tent Village in any way. As an example, our media policy was quickly altered from the Village being open to media to no cameras being allowed on-site as concerns about privacy arose within the first 24 hours. A sophisticated media protocol has developed since and is posted on the front gate. Plans to remain on-site were also extended to at least the end of the Olympic Games. Community agreements, under the leadership of DTES Elders and DTES Power to Women group, were drafted. These include: respect for all Tent City residents, no discrimination, a drug and alcohol free site though those who are under the influence are welcomed without judgement, no violence against other residents, and prioritizing decision-making by DTES residents, those who are homeless, and DTES Elders.

 

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/2908

 

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The 19th century analogy that anarchist liked to use was the postal system internationally.  No hierarchy only countries all agreeing on protocols so that mail gets delivered but there is no International Postal Service.

I prefer to use the World Wide Web as an analogy because that is the type of interconnectedness without hierarchy that has always been envisioned by anarchists.

Snert Snert's picture

Interesting, because I was pondering anarchism earlier today and wondered about mail.  Internationally, countries agree to carry each other's mail, on the assumption that the finances will work out more or less fairly (eg: there won't be disproportionate numbers of Britons buying a stamp in the UK for mail that will be carried to the door by Canada Post, etc.)

But what about domestic mail?  If Canada were anarchist, would we be relying on individual communities to forward mail once it's inside Canada?  What about outgoing mail?  If I buy a stamp, who gets the money?  For that matter, who prints the stamp?

I guess I can't shake the belief that there are many things that just really are better centralized and managed, and not left to the initiative of independent groups.  Health care would be an obvious example.  And of course justice, the need for which I cannot imagine evaporating under any circumstances (least of which being the disbanding of all law enforcement agencies).

Le T Le T's picture

kropotkin wrote:
I prefer to use the World Wide Web as an analogy because that is the type of interconnectedness without hierarchy that has always been envisioned by anarchists.

And just look at how states and corporations are grasping for control of the www, and what happens in areas that they already control. good analogy.

remind remind's picture

How was the TransCanada hwy built by slave labour?

Le T Le T's picture

snert wrote:
But what about domestic mail? If Canada were anarchist, would we be relying on individual communities to forward mail once it's inside Canada? What about outgoing mail? If I buy a stamp, who gets the money? For that matter, who prints the stamp?

I guess I can't shake the belief that there are many things that just really are better centralized and managed, and not left to the initiative of independent groups. Health care would be an obvious example. And of course justice, the need for which I cannot imagine evaporating under any circumstances (least of which being the disbanding of all law enforcement agencies).

 

Canada, by definition, can not "be anarchist". Again anarchism might be easier understood as a process. It's not 1...2...3...Anarchy! Whereupon the state and its violent justice system are disolved.

 

remind wrote:
How was the TransCanada hwy built by slave labour?

Perhaps "slave" is being used in the sense that hard labour for 60 hours per week just to put food on the table is hardly freedom

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Canada, by definition, can not "be anarchist".

 

Ah, OK, I guess I see what you mean. But did you get what I was getting at? How about "if we Canadians decided to deprecate our current systems of electoral politics and centralized authorities in favour of a more anarchist approach"?

 

But that aside, who'd print the stamps?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Joey Ramone wrote:

I'm not sure I would call myself an "anarchist", because I have not read enough political theory to be sure I qualify for that label.  However, I have no problem with being described as a "libertarian" socialist. 25-30 years ago, when I was in my early 20s I would probably have described myself simply as a Marxist or Marxist-Leninist, but my 30 odd years as an activist have taught me a few things that can only be learned through activism.  I now think that big government and bureaucracy are very often bad things which should be avoided when possible.  Government owned businesses should be avoided wherever possible, in favour of democratic, worker owned economies.  I have also come to believe that real socialism is impossible without freedom of speech, a free media, political democracy and an independent judiciary accountable to the people they serve.  These conditions do not exist in many societies whose ruling elites claim to be "socialist", but are in fact, in my view, anti-socialist dictatorships hypocritically using socialist and anti-imperialist rhetoric.  China comes to mind.

As for how activists and movements organize themselves, I am opposed to hierarchy, but not opposed to structures which are democratic and thoroughly accountable to the grassroots.  Structurelessness, I have learned, is often worse than hierarchy, since certain personalities will end up running structureless movements and, without rules making them accountable to the grassroots, the "tyranny of structureless" often results.

Maybe someone who defines himself or herself as an anarchist can tell me whether I am one.

If you believe in democratically controlled worker owned enterprises instead of either socialist or capitalist hierarchies you are well on your way to being an anarchist.  Two me those are the twin pillars of getting to a new economic system. 

Structurelessness is in fact chaos and that is the on going characterization and slander of anarchy that is prevalent in the MSM but that has never been a part of anarchist political thought.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Snert wrote:

Quote:

But that aside, who'd print the stamps?

 

Duh Printers?  What you thought maybe it would be Doctors?

So tell me Snert why is it libertarians who claim to believe in individualism like the corporate economic system so much.  After all corporations are the antithesis of individual responsibility and action.

Le T Le T's picture

snert wrote:
Ah, OK, I guess I see what you mean. But did you get what I was getting at? How about "if we Canadians decided to deprecate our current systems of electoral politics and centralized authorities in favour of a more anarchist approach"?

 

But that aside, who'd print the stamps?

 

You're still asking the same question and not listening to the answers being given. But that aside, a worker-controlled stamp factory?

Snert Snert's picture

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Duh Printers?  What you thought maybe it would be Doctors?

 

I guess I'm wondering whether it would be a centralized printer or whether each collective would have their own.

 

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But that aside, a worker-controlled stamp factory?

 

OK, but one (centralized) or many?

 

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You're still asking the same question and not listening to the answers being given.

 

I don't think that's quite true. I get the part about worker control. I get the part about no centralized authority, no "government" and no elections and so on. But where anarchism gets harder to "get" is when you imagine various services that we've become accustomed to and believe we need (eg: food inspection) and then try to imagine how it would look without a central authority. I can even imagine that any given group could have its own food inspector, but would there be a centralized regulatory body to ensure that standards are uniform? That sort of thing.

 

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So tell me Snert why is it libertarians who claim to believe in individualism like the corporate economic system so much.  After all corporations are the antithesis of individual responsibility and action.

 

I'm more of a civil libertarian than a fiscal libertarian.

 

al-Qa'bong

remind wrote:

How was the TransCanada hwy built by slave labour?

 

I think the poster may have meant "the National Dream," or the trans-continental railroad. 

 

Quote:
If you get a group of people together for any purpose for any length of time, leaders are going to emerge and power hiearchies will develop.  Sometimes violently.  That's the natural behaviour of social animals. 

 

Or not. As Kropotkin wrote, co-operation is natural among social animals as well.

 

Anarchy is order.

kalin

Yeah, it was late and for some reason I read 'railroad' where it wasn't there and typed 'highway.' Which somewhat kills what I was saying, except that wage slavery is an ongoing reality for the working class.

The question "who makes the stamps?" presupposes the need for stamps in a society where having to pay for things is not a given.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
The question "who makes the stamps?" presupposes the need for stamps in a society where having to pay for things is not a given.

 

And this presupposes that all nations will embrace anarchy. Even if Canada stopped being a state as we know it, the people living in the former Canada might occasionally want to send a letter to another country, yes? For which a stamp would be required, yes?

RosaL

I've seen and experienced too much cruelty and indifference to rely on "affinity groups" or good will. I think there has to be something in there to protect the weak and the unpopular, for example, at least until human beings change quite a bit. I'm not saying that can't happen. But it's not going to happen the minute we get rid of capitalism. I think we're going to need some 'transitional structures'. (I know you've heard this before Wink.)

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

But is also the standard response to big dreams of change.  Snert implies that unless someone can envision where a democratic and evolving economic system goes that is will go nowhere.  Tell that to the people who envisioned and developed the web.  

People used to think that without a monarch countries could not function because the people were not capable of ruling themselves.  Democracies arose as the answer however the idea of democracy while very prevalent in North America the reality of democracy is that there is none in Canada.  Economic decisions which are the most important are all left in the hands of corporations and Washington.  In Canada two thirds of Canadians explicitly rejected "free" trade with the US but we not only got it but now we are told we can never get out of it because of the repercussions from the empire.  Some fucking democracy.

Give Canadians the opportunity and they will chose to work in and be part of worker controlled enterprises.  Then when the workers are not reliant on foreign corporations we can build a real democracy where things like deep integration and security are issues to be decided by citizens not corporate lawyers behind sealed doors.

RosaL

Well, I'm in favour of the worker-controlled enterprises bit. 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Strangely I find that most Canadians of all political stripes agree with worker owned enterprises.  If only we had a party that would seed the idea with a capital pool for creative groups of people to access and have their potential unleashed.  Unfortunately that kind of thinking is way to "left" for the current crop of parties including the NDP and the Greens.

A new society must be built from the ground up by freeing people from their wage slavery to corporations whose primary purpose is to get maximum profits out of the workers toil for the shareholders gain.  I don't know what those enterprises will look like if we nurture them and they grow for 20 or 30 years because the people involved would be making the decisions democratically.

RosaL

I'm not sure that a worker-controlled enterprises within capitalism would transform capitalism. I think rather that capitalism would form them. That's part of why I doubt we can change things piece-meal and from the ground up (though I think that any change must be driven and controlled by "the ground" - but that's not the same thing). But this is an old debate. Maybe I should just leave it alone Undecided

ReeferMadness

Thanks, Le T, kalin, Kropotkin & others for the education.  I think I'm getting it now.  Anarchism is a characteristic, not a system.  It can't be defined because if someone defined it, it wouldn't be anarchy.  Smile

 

Here's the thing, though.  Just because there is no formal power structure doesn't mean there is no power structure.  And just because there is a formal power structure doesn't mean that decisions are made autocratically and enforced by power.  Life and people are in many ways naturally anarchistic. Even in a corporate environment, individual managers bring more or less collaborative and open styles to management.

And not every situation lends itself to anarchy.  Imagine being a passenger on a ship and you get caught in a big storm.   The ship is taking on water.  Would you like a competent captain to start shouting orders or would you rather the crew sat down and had a debate to arrive at consensus?

Some activities lend themselves more naturally to organic decision making (like operating a tent village) than others.  Also, some people will be more comfortable operating in anarchistic environment.  Some people are task motivated and will simply become frustrated by consensus decision making.

One last point.  I've heard anarchists talking about bringing about "the revolution".  How do you go about convincing people that a revolution is good when there are only vague notions what will be on the other side of the revolution?  There are a lot of problems in the world but before I sign up for a revolution, I want to know there will still be food and running water and medical care and transportation.  What I'm hearing is "Trust us.  It will all work somehow".

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Anarchy is a system for ordering structures democratically it is not a system where there is no expertise that needs to be relied upon.  Of course the Captain gives orders in an emergency but then she became the Captain because the shipping syndicate democratically thought she was the best officer for the job. People follow leaders with expertise better than leaders with only coercive authority to bolster their legitimacy.

I don't talk much about revolution in the sense of an armed revolution because my reading of history tells me it is very, very rare that when the dust settles the government is not controlled by the most ruthless killers. That is why I say lets try and unleash the syndicate and see whether that can lead us to better governments for all citizens even those still working for corporations.  Acceptance and realization that there is another way than the imperial corporate form of economic enterprise would be a first step in a country like Canada where the propaganda machine of the empire is unrelenting.

Slumberjack

The themes which emanated from Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle and the Situationalist International influences occur as relevant today as they ever were. The prescient analysis from the late 60s outlined a fake existence and the increasingly dreadful condition of humanity, being purposefully obscured through the efforts of the corporate media with its central role of producing a wide range of mass advertising campaigns, from consumerism to the political realm.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to escape the thought that by the time humanity collectively begins to understand how little time remains for peaceful activism to patiently work it influence upon some future vision of the zeitgeist, it will be far too late.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Snert implies that unless someone can envision where a democratic and evolving economic system goes that is will go nowhere.  Tell that to the people who envisioned and developed the web.  

 

The web can appear to be big and decentralized and democratic because in its infancy, it centrally adopted (and rigidly maintains) many standards. Try connecting to the web using something other than TCP/IP, or try inventing your own HTTP protocol and see where it gets you. And if we ever got rid of centralized root name servers we'd all be unable to connect.

 

Quote:
How do you go about convincing people that a revolution is good when there are only vague notions what will be on the other side of the revolution? 

 

Inform them that nothing's ever perfect, we'll worry about the problems when we get there, and for now they're too obsessed with details.

Le T Le T's picture

reefer wrote:
One last point. I've heard anarchists talking about bringing about "the revolution". How do you go about convincing people that a revolution is good when there are only vague notions what will be on the other side of the revolution? There are a lot of problems in the world but before I sign up for a revolution, I want to know there will still be food and running water and medical care and transportation. What I'm hearing is "Trust us. It will all work somehow".

 

Can't answer for those you have spoken to but I, like kopotkin(the babbler, not the namesake), don't place much value in an armed revolution. The revolution is happening now and it's coming in the back door. Capitalist society is obviously wounded and stagering around high on pain meds. If you start building a new society in spite of the dominant one based on the radical democratic principles that people in the thread have been talking about I think that there is a good chance for radical change.

 

snert wrote:
Inform them that nothing's ever perfect, we'll worry about the problems when we get there, and for now they're too obsessed with details.

 

Hmm... thread started called "I don't get anarchists", some anarchists take the time to try to explain their positions, you don't listen and misrepresent the argument. nice.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Asking and answering your own questions again, Snert?

And what do you mean by a social not fiscal libertarian.

I notice you never answered whether you think the corporate form is a good thing or not either.  I understand those political ideas less than anarchy but then people have been writing on the subject of anarchy for centuries unlike Ayn Rand 's ranting about libertarianism that are only half a century old. 

What you think of the concept of a free market?  Is it possible for something that no one has ever experienced to be the central tent of an just economic system? 

What do you think about our corporate form of economic enterprise?  Is it libertarian and individualistic to have corporations control our economies?

Given your questions above we already know you have no imagination so I don't see how you could believe in the free market  because that would require one. And I wonder if you are an individualist then how could you believe in a form of economic activity that negates personal liability and responsibility?

You should explain yourself because you are really starting to look like a run of the mill troll with no idea about anything except their right wing fantasies.

Polunatic2

Quote:
If only we had a party that would seed the idea with a capital pool for creative groups of people to access and have their potential unleashed.

I floated a similar idea at last year's Ontario Federation of Labour convention - i.e. that the union movement consider establishing a multi-million dollar investment fund to provide worker co-ops with capital needed to get started in green manufacturing. From what I can tell, the union pension funds (which have plenty of capital) aren't prepared to do so because of "fiduciary responsibility" so why not the unions themselves? Thud. 

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