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.

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.

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.

"Self-proclaimed" Anarchists

The phrase “self-proclaimed anarchist” screeches on my mind like finger nails on a blackboard. It is used, even among Progressives such as Amy Goodman, as a pejorative, diminishing the value of anything a “self-proclaimed anarchist” might say or do.

How did this ethical judgement get embedded in our culture? Why aren’t Democrats, Christians, environmentalists, Progressives and Libertarians equally singled out as “self-proclaimed,” diminished in value compared to all the other “non-self-proclaimed” members of the offending group.

It’s a peculiar phenomenon, unique to discussions about anarchism, in company with images of the becloaked mad bomber of 19th Century government propaganda. Most peculiar is that it is thoroughly embedded in literature and popular thought, even among anarchists.

What is the opposite of a self-proclaimed anarchist, and who are they? Who is responsible for officially recognizing anarchists such that they are no longer self-proclaimed? The government? The media? Other anarchists?

An anarchist is one who seeks an end to central, oppressive government, an absence of rulers in a self-regulated community of rules. Anarchists are known by their lives and their actions. Anarchists, by their own actions, proclaim themselves anarchists.

There is no need to add a modifier to the anarchist identification. Action speaks louder than any words.

Rebellion is not anarchy!

Once again, the media misuse the word “anarchy,” describing instead chaotic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

    However, this is not anarchy; this is rebellion. The people are demonstrating in opposition to the current central leadership: Mubarak. They are not demanding rule by the people. They want a leader who is not Mubarak.

    Anarchy is not “no rules,” it is “no rulers.” In anarchy, the people make and enforce the rules without a central state wielding a monopoly of power. Anarchy is self-rule, rule by the people, “democracy taken serious!” If the people wanted anarchy, they would be organizing locally, forming their own local decision-making bodies, solving their own problems at a local level.

    While rebellion may be necessary in order to depose a despotic ruler, it must have an anarchic organization to take the place of the central state. Organization first, then rebellion, if necessary. Ed Abbey, one of America’s foremost anarchists, argued strongly against violence as a tool to achieve an anarchist society. Anarchism is based on willing, cooperative relationships among all citizens in a society. Violence is inherently coercive and leads to a coercive society. One cannot create a free and peaceful society through violence.

    An anarchist society arises of itself, from the people. It cannot be imposed on the people from above.

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.


California Coastal Commission Waffles

Unfortunately, we have learned that the California Coastal Commission process is cooked in favor of developers. (See article here) Any developer can resubmit a project every six months until a mix of Commissioners is sitting who can be convinced to approve it. All it takes is buckets of money, political influence and patience.

This is why development projects have been approved in Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas in the past. The Coastal Commission does not prevent development in sensitive coastal habitat, it regulates such development.

That being said, we do not roll over and accept this. We will communicate our objections to this special consideration for the City, which has already received one extension on the project from the Commissioners. How far does the Coastal Commission have to bend over backwards for the City of Santa Cruz?

When the City resubmits its application, we will be there, personally, no matter where the hearing takes place, to register our disapproval and lobby for a true Master Plan that does not violate the California Coastal Act and does not diminish critical habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant, the Tidwater Goby and Steelhead Trout, and all other species that call Arana Gulch Home.

No Compromise!