A Few Thoughts on Anarchism

“This year, 2015, marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of Proudhon’s seminal ‘What is Property?’. While opponents had hurled the label “anarchist” at those more radical than themselves during both the English and French revolutions, Proudhon was the first to embrace the name and proclaim themselves an anarchist. Anarchism, like any significant theory, has evolved as society has evolved and a great many since Proudhon have proclaimed themselves – or been proclaimed by their enemies – an anarchist. What, then, does anarchism mean at the start of the 21st century?”

Source: A Few Thoughts on Anarchism | Anarchist Writers

Yes, anarchy has a bad name these days, thanks to a century or more of propaganda, lies and misinformation self-servingly promulgated by the elitist corporate oligarchy that controls the broadcast and access to information. We are constantly urged to not use the words anarchy or anarchism to avoid putting off the readers with images of bomb-throwing crazed maniacs.

If we are to reveal the broadcast and expose the underlying totalitarian message, it is necessary to use words for their meaning in order to talk about the processes that result in the culture in which we are immersed.

The above essay is long, and it is an excellent description of the history of anarchist thought and its place in the world today.

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I am a long-time proponent of anarchism, the body of thought regarding a social system based on non-hierarchical, decentralized, self-rule; that is, rules but no rulers.

I am forced to admit that human beings are not capable of sustaining such a society.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been involved in an attempt to protect a section of coastal California from a small, dedicated, vociferous, group of people intent on continuing their practice of allowing their dogs to run off-leash despite local leash laws prohibiting the practice.

At first, this might seem a contradiction. Laws? Illegal? Rules? Rulers? What does this have to do with anarchy?

Not much… and everything.

The off-leash dog proponents claim it is their right to allow their dogs to run off-leash whenever and wherever they want, despite ample evidence that off-leash dogs attack and injure people, other dogs and wildlife. It is clear that the common good requires rules restricting people from allowing their domesticated animals to roam freely in shared public space, hence, in our non-anarchic society, leash laws.

There seems to be a growing movement in the United States (the only country I know) of disregarding laws by considering them “obsolete.” It’s part, I think, of the “on demand” society created, at least in part, by the ubiquitous presence of television, computers, “smart” phones ( a “dumb” idea), and other instantaneous access technology that reduces human attention span, increases demand for material possessions and increasingly emphasizes personal individuality and desires over the common good.

Thus, those who want to go to the beach with their dogs off-leash seem to see this as an “entitlement” that no one else has any right to tell them they cannot do. They want it. They want it now. Any rules that stand in the way are “obsolete” because they don’t agree with them.

“You don’t know me well enough to tell me what to do” is the oft-heard and experienced attitude.

This trend, if it is a trend, is 180 degrees away from the ideals of anarchy. In this world view, every individual is an authority, there is no common good, the needs and desires of society are subservient to the needs and desires of the individual.

So we’re stuck with some form of hierarchical society until Homo sapiens grows up enough to take responsibility for its individual self and relearns the concept of responsibility to the wider society.

Happy Birthday, Peter Kropotkin

December 9th is the 170th anniversary of the birth of Peter Kropotkin, who birthed the concept of mutual aid and anarchism.

I suspect modern tonsorial practices have much to do with the state of the world today, that and ties. The constant scraping of face and neck, the tiny hair bits breathed at the barber shop, the toxic chemicals used by the average barber have all contributed to the lowering the average IQ of the American male.

Ties obviously reduce blood flow to the brain. When men turned from the loosely gathered cravat to the modern four-in-hand neck ornament, somewhere around the American (un)Civil war, brain cells began a steady decline. Now we see the results. The loosening of morals, ignorance rampant on the streets and in the halls of power. 

Who needs ties? Let’s decorate our necks with the natural feature that inalterably distinguishes the male of our species from the female: a blossoming beard in all its natural variety. Thus we refute militarized conformity, economic servitude and post-industrial ennui. 

On anarchism, socialism and things environmental

Any discussion of historical anarchism and socialism is interesting in itself, giving us some perspective on how we got here today. However, things are different today than in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, government bureaucrats and politicians have learned much in the interim about how to mold public opinion, manufacture consent and manipulate election outcomes. The corporate oligarchy has strengthened and expanded it stranglehold on the public franchise.

The fact still remains that anarchism and socialism have no intrinsic environmental advantages over capitalism, totalitarianism and corporate oligarchy. The state capitalism of the late Soviet Union was far more destructive to wild lands than Chicago School free market capitalism exported by the United States, as badly as that turned out. It is not capitalism or socialism that is the problem, it is industrialism.

industrialism – an economic system built on large industries rather than on agriculture or craftsmanship

Industrialism, whether of the capitalist or socialist coloration, is the basic tyrant of the modern age.” Ed Abbey

Our modern industrial economy takes a mountain covered with trees, lakes, running streams and transforms it into a mountain of junk, garbage, slime pits, and debris.” Ed Abbey

Case in point: Here in Santa Cruz, on the Left Coast, the good coast, our City Fathers (and Mothers) have decided we don’t have enough water to last through periods of drought. Their proposed solution is to build a $120+ million desalination plant, that requires 4 to 5 million dollars annual maintenance costs, and enormous energy consumption, whether it’s used or not. They refuse to listen to the argument that we have outgrown our water supply, and therefore, an equally applicable solution is to stop growing, increase conservation and make do with what we have. Rather than deciding to step back from the edge of the precipice, turn around and walk forward, they’ve decided to pretend they can walk on air beyond the abyss.

Our task then is to prevent, by whatever means necessary, further degradation of the Earth’s natural systems, and find a way to organize human societies such that we do not consume more resources than are naturally replenished, that we do not produce more wastes than can naturally be dispersed, and that allows us to exist within naturally occurring cycles of resource availability. 

To The States, or any one of them, or any city of The States, Resist much, obey little;
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved;
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.
” Walt Whitman 

If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream.” Ed Abbey

Be of good cheer, the military-industrial state will soon collapse. Meanwhile, we must do all in our power to oppose, resist, and subvert its desperate aggrandizements. As a matter of course. As a matter of honor.” Ed Abbey

Anarchy: Democracy Taken Seriously.

In a July 24 Commentary, Mark Dalton mistakenly compares anarchists to Tea Party opponents of raising the debt ceiling. This is as much a disservice to members of Congress as it is to anarchists and the theories of anarchism.

Anarchy means no rulers, not no rules. Anarchism is the body of political thought and writing calling for an end to authoritarian centralized rule, not government. An anarchist society is a society in which the people enforce common rules, rather than giving over their power to a central authority.

Anarchy is not chaos. Those who practice violent destruction in the name of anarchy are not philosophical anarchists, but opportunistic vandals, capitalizing on the popular impression of violent anarchism for their own political gain. If the world today were dominated by anarchists in anarchist societies, it would be much more peaceful. There would be no imperialism, no invasions of other countries to steal their oil and resources, no billions in profits to be gained by dominating the central government. We would look out for ourselves, our families and our neighbors, live within local cycles of resource availability, produce locally for local consumption and stop trashing the planet for corporate profits.

There is no single Anarchist Manifesto, as anarchism is not a centrally ruled doctrine, such as American Republicanism. Anarchism is the various ways people live, in their own communities, in their own bioregions, in maximum freedom of choice, assembly, and cooperation, giving each person, family, neighborhood and community maximum opportunity for free expression.

Democracy is indeed messy. We should try it in the United States some time. Real Democracy, not this faux Democracy Light of barely disguised corporate oligarchy.

Anarchism is democracy, rule by the people, taken seriously.

Anarchy is rule by the people

In a recent Santa Cruz Sentinel (an edition of the San Jose Mercury News) letter to the editor, Richard Hencke of Scotts Valley said,

“Webster defines anarchy as “a state of society where there is no law,” and anarchism as “The doctrine of the abolition of formal government.”… If we did not have government, we would be forced to invent it for self-protection. The only question, and the big one, is the proper role of government.”

Fortunately, anarchists are not restricted to dictionary definitions in the pursuit of anarchy, which means, in practice, no rulers, not no rules. Anarchism is not a doctrine, but the body of thought and literature of those working for self-government, freedom from state oppression, voluntary cooperation and freedom of association.

Anarchists work to support local self-government, local economies, local social support systems. Anarchists support farmers’ markets, cooperative child care, neighborhood assemblies, mutual aid, neighborhood watch, public libraries, housing cooperatives, sweat equity, public transportation, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

Anarchists are opposed to government imperialism, militarized police forces, Homeland (In)Security, corporate personhood and the corporate oligarchy, centralized political parties, standing armies, the centralized “global” economy, tax breaks for the rich and powerful, the overweening power and monopoly of force of a ruling elite.

The proper role of government is to carry out the will of the people. An anarchist government would consist of a decentralized network of federated assemblies carrying out the will of self-organized assemblies at the local level. An anarchist government would replace political and economic favor with decision-making by the people, locally, regionally and nationally. No central government would be able to wield economic or military power without the expressed will and consent of the people.

It is not anarchy that foists destruction, death, mayhem and chaos on the world, it is centralized government. The invasion and occupation of Panama, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan were not organized and carried out by anarchists, they were perpetrated by the central government of the United States, without the consent of its citizens, in support of global economic interests.

Cries of “Anarchy!” in response to vandalism and public violence are the unthinking, knee-jerk reactions of a public and media dominated by corporate and government propaganda, whose interests are served by denigrating popular dissent.

Anarchy is rule by the people, democracy in its truest form.


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Anarchy Without Anarchists

In the wake of May Day vandalism and property destruction in downtown Santa Cruz, blamed on unnamed “anarchists,” the real anarchist community held a meeting last night to discuss the meaning of anarchism and anarchy and our reasons for pursuing this particular sociopolitical pathway.

It was a good meeting, even prompting a sympathetic article in the semi-local newspaper: Anarchists seek to demystify anarchy A panel made up of representatives of at least four trends in anarchism: cooperative local, mutual aid; queer individualism; anti-authoritarian confrontation; and anarcho-syndicalist self-organization.

John Malkin of Santa Cruz, host of a weekly radio program on music, art, spirituality, anarchy and compassion on Free Radio Santa Cruz spoke on, well, music, art, spirituality, anarchy and compassion and his work organizing here in Santa Cruz. Here’s an interview on John:

Barry Pateman gave a rousing talk about his upbringing in a mining town in Yorkshire. When the miners went on strike they took care of their own, not because of any Marxist, Anarchist of other “-ist” teachings, but because it was the right and only thing to do. Mutual aid.

As for the other speakers, advocacy for gender diversity has nothing to do with anarchy. Nor do I support violence against anyone, including police and military, as a valid anarchist strategy. The best way to deal with the constabulary is non-cooperation and right livelihood. If we confront their authority, we give legitimacy to their power. Best to ignore them, take care of our own, and let them wither away through disuse.

The bookend introductory speeches were so good, we didn’t stay for the Q & A. It was obvious that anarchy is in good hands in Santa Cruz, called by any name. Barry said it well:

“Anarchy will come, even without anarchists.”