from Everything you ever wanted to know about anarchy (but were afraid to ask)
First printed and published by: The Anarchist Media Group, Cardiff (UK) Later published in l988 jointly by: Black Sheep Publications, Dark Star and Rebel Press Typeset and printed by: Aldgate Press, 84h Whitechapel High Street, London El
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There is probably more rubbish talked about anarchism than any other political idea. Actually, it has nothing to do with a belief in chaos, death and destruction. Anarchists do not normally carry bombs, nor do they ascribe any virtue to beating up old ladies.
It is no accident that the sinister image of the mad anarchist is so accepted. The State, the press and all the assorted authoritarian types, use every means at their disposal to present anarchy as an unthinkable state of carnage and chaos. We can expect little else from power-mongers who would have no power to monger if we had our way. They have to believe that authority and obedience are essential in order to justify their own crimes to themselves. The TV, press and films all preach obedience, and when anarchy is mentioned at all, it is presented as mindless destruction.
The alleged necessity of authority is so firmly planted in the average mind that anarchy, which means simply no government‘ is almost unthinkable to most people. The same people, on the other hand, will admit that rules, regulations, taxes, officiousness and abuse of power (to name but a few) are irritating to say the least. These things are usually thought to be worth suffering in silence because the alternative–no power, no authority, everybody doing what they pleased–would be horrible. It would be anarchy.
Yet there are a limitless range of possible societies without the State. Not all of them would be unpleasant to live in. Quite the contrary! Any kind of anarchist society would at least be spared the horrible distortions the State produces. The ‚negative‘ side of anarchism–abolition of the State– has to be balanced against what replaces it a society of freedom and free co-operation.
Various sorts of anarchists have differing ideas on exactly how society ought to be organised. They all agree that the State must be replaced by a society without classes and without force. It is because of this belief in freedom that we are reluctant to put forward a rigid blueprint. We offer only possible models backed up by evidence drawn from life. Actually, there has already been an anarchist society and it took nothing less than mass murder to stop it.
Another common misunderstanding from those who know slightly more about it, is that anarchism is a nice daydream, a beautiful but impractical idea. In fact, the anarchist movement has a long history and it arose not in the heads of ivory tower philosophers, but directly, from the practical struggle for survival of masses of ordinary, downtrodden people. It has always been intensely practical in its concerns and its ways of doing things. The movement has come quite close to success a few times. If it is really so hopelessly impractical, then why is the State so determined to stamp it out?
Very few people seem to understand anarchism, even though it is a very simple, straightforward idea. It can be expressed basically as running our own lives instead of being pushed around.
There is nothing complicated or threatening about anarchism, except the fearsome arguments it can get you into. Such as the one about the chaos there would be if everyone did just what they wanted. But we have chaos already don’t we? Millions are out of work, whilst others do too much boring, repetitive labour. People starve at the same time as food is being dumped into the sea to keep prices up. Our air is choked by the fumes from cars that contain only one person. The list of crazy, chaotic things that happen is endless.
Even the good‘ things that the State does are actually harmful. The Health Service, for example, patches us up just like an industrial repair shop which in a sense it is. It serves to make us dependent on the State and, worst of all, it buys us off cheaply. It prevents us from creating the genuine, self-managed Health Service we need, geared to our needs not theirs.
Authorities by their very nature can only interfere and impose things. surely, ordinary people can figure out some way of coping, without planners knocking down their houses to build yet more empty office blocks? It is a basic anarchist principle that only people who live in an area have the right to decide what happens there.
All this chaos, we believe, arises from authority and the State. Without the ruling class and its need to keep us in bondage, there would be no State. Without the State we would be in a position to organise freely for our _own_ ends. Surely we couldn’t make a worse mess than we are stuck with already? Free organisation could provide a much greater orderliness than a society that concentrates on the systematic robbery and suppression of the majority of its members.
Anarchism and Its Aspirations provides an accessible overview of an often-misunderstood political philosophy, highlighting its principles and practices as well as its reconstructive vision of a liberatory society. Download and read it here: Milstein – Anarchy and Its Aspirations