An Ode to Wolff (Response to “Basic Political Principles”)
My good now-former-anarchist-friend Scott has just published this post. And it’s led me to re-open this blog as a bit of a forum or a way for me to further my anarchist values and ideas. While Scott has left his anarchism behind I shall push forward. It is my contention that anarchism not only is theoretically possible and realistically practical but to a much higher degree than democratic socialism. It is the main aim of this response to Scott’s blog post to prove as much. If I succeed in nothing else then I hope it is this.
Scott, I am sure, will protest and argue and so on. That’s fine. After all, we’ve gone back and forth before here . Unfortunately, in a move of symbolism of a sort I’m sure and one of real importance I assume, Scott has deleted the blog in which he responded to. In any case, I’m not unfamiliar with getting into conversations with Scott.
First off, I love Scott. He’s a great guy and I know he’s a good intentions filled person with a kind heart from the discussions we’ve had. We’ve shared emotional crap that we’ve had to deal with, political dialogues as well as conversations about our poetry. So Scott and I certainly have a mutual respect for each other. That said, a mutual respect can only take you so long with me and if I don’t think you’re right I’m going to (most likely) call you out on such if I feel it’s appropriate to. Such is the case here. I don’t think Scott’s laying down of his “basic political principles” are very comprehensive and they should be recognized as such. Even so, I know that I should give a comprehensive response to some of the biggest concerns for Scott. The reasons are several and multi-layered.
First off, I respect Scott and I take his accusations and problems serious. One of his main problems in his blog-post is that he doesn’t feel as if anarchism is practical and while the state is certainly not perfect at least there are some concrete methods. I’ll try to make the case that this is not only true but actually backwards. I shall endeavor to prove to Scott that at the least he should question what it means to actually be practical and utopian. And of course it all depends on what your aims or means are and that is actually determining what is and is not practical. Your values are what determine your actions and your actions should in turn reflect these values of yours. I’ll get more into this later.
Second, these aren’t new concerns about anarchism and if they keep popping up it’s very likely that they are actual problems. Even if the problems are just real perceived ones instead of really existing ones, it makes sense to address them to at least quell people. And it’s likely to assume that if can quell someone of Scott’s demeanor and political temperaments perhaps it can work with others as well!
Third, Scott is a good guy at heart and I think a great heart (emotionally speaking) can be better furthered by excellent views on the world both in the political and otherwise. So I’m also doing this response because I think anarchism helped Scott improve as a person. I know it did for me and it did it for many other people I know. I’ve met many great people through the anarchist movement and while that’s not me making a justification for anarchism on that basis alone and of course my own values match theirs thus increasing my chances of liking them I think the point is a good one.
It points to the idea that perhaps anarchists aren’t “extreme and unreasonable” as Scott says. Under a certain value system and ideas about how people should be treated and society organized it actually seems like the people who advocates for states are those “extreme and unreasonable” people. But I don’t think it’s healthy or really gonna further any sort of meaningful dialogue to throw around insults.
My main point here is to just say that I think Scott’s life would be a more fulfilling one if he focuses on systems that promote a lot of what he seeks but in a more consistent way. Scott has a lot of ends that even I have trouble disagreeing with and so we’re certainly not on completely opposite sides of the world here. Even so, I do think the fact that I’ve known good people in the anarchist movement (especially in the sense of removing the anarchist context they’re still good people) points to perhaps a possibility of a positive outcome of being in such a movement. No guarantees or anything Scott, just saying it’s possible anarchism serves a broader positive purpose then, being,
“like skeptics who challenge us to check our justifications and make valid points about ideology,democracy etc.”
And highlighting, “some faulty arguments for statism.” It is one of my main sub-arguments that anarchism in a broad sense is a critical part of critical thought in general. Of course this is a huge claim so I aim to back that up as well as time goes on.
Fourth, on a purely personal and more meager basis (but still important by itself or even overall) I want Scott to value things in similar ways that I do. Most people do and I don’t think that’s an inherent problem It can certainly become a problem if handled poorly. For instance parents can use their so-called “legitimate” authority over “their” kids to mold them into just what they want to be or wanted to be in their past life. And although this is a bit of a side-note and a perhaps unnecessary elaboration I don’t think this is productive for either parties. It makes the parent project themselves on to others and put less of an emphasis on their own further self-development. Meanwhile the child (bearing the brunt of this bad relation) is having their own ability to create their own identity crushed by a figure who they’re supposed to trust. This is harmful on many levels…but I won’t continue, perhaps another time.
I think those are good enough reasons to give this long response (and long introduction) to my response to Scott. With all of that said, let’s get started.
Plenty of the terms in this discussion will be most likely up to dispute on some level or another. That’s partly because, in one way or another, me and Scott’s ideas of how the world and reality itself are in dispute at the bottom of things. But I’ll try not to get that far deep of course and just deal with the obvious (as least to me) political implications of what Scott said and my response and so on. At any rate the most contentious terms are going to be words like “anarchism”, “social-democrat”, “democrat/ic”, “state/government”, “politics”, “practical”, “utopian”, “theft”, “property”, “legitimate”, “aggression”, “consent”, “pessimism/cynicism”, “abstract” and I’ve probably missed so many others.
To discuss these concepts without relating them to the context they’re given might give us a better bare look at the concepts themselves but it’s practically useless (practically in this case meaning both as in relation to further useful action being able to be taken and a quantifier) to further the conversation between us and Scott. Further, I’m obviously not gonna fully try to lay out my ideas of these terms and why those ideas are the best. I think that’s certainly worthwhile in some context, but not this one. Thus I hope that elucidating my opinions on the most important concepts in that batch will help at least tease out my ideas or give people a sort of indirect idea of what I think about those other concepts. My hope is such will be sufficient for Scott to discern where I stand and thus the conversation will be able to move on pleasantly enough. If not, then we can at least discern the biggest differences between us from the get-go and see what we can work on. I think due to those things and probably others I won’t take the reader’s time to list this is a useful thing to do.
First off, a brief definition of anarchism.
Anarchism is never defined in Scott’s blog-post and he never attempts to make a definition of his own viewpoint he tries defining it through the typical indirect method of listing certain things he is pro or con. He says,
“It’s a mix of John Dewey pragmatist politics, green politics,cooperativism,market socialism,scottish independence,LBGT rights, Disability rights,Environmentalism,Feminism,Anti-racism,Marxist thought and Situationism.With some insights from anarchism. I have a heavy focus on ordinary working class people and ALL other marginalized groups.
I have a strong belief in direct democracy and power to the people.socialism democrats are too moderate,too pro-capitalism. Anarchists are extreme and unreasonable. I support Occupy,UK Uncut, and the IWW.”
In terms of method of defining oneself there’s nothing per se’ that I have inherently against this sort of tactic of defining oneself. If people think listing their founding principles is what makes them stand out or differentiate them from others then cool. I think it can be useful in giving people a bigger sort of picture or context about where you’re coming from. But it also tends to just be a lot of labels and not much substance behind them unless asked further. So this context that can be painted is typically a thin one. But again, that’s not a bad thing if you’re prepared to elaborate. My hope is that Scott is.
Another way of describing yourself is not to talk about your principles but basic or general values you are. These can be words like “justice” “equality” and so on. These are obviously vague words and they can be used pretty poorly in some contexts due to this fact and personal preferences. But the advantages of it is that they can lead to deeper philosophical conversations then just saying you’re not an anarchist or anti-racist and so on. These may lead to useful social questions being discussed (and for sure, they can be and should) but they may not as likely lead to deep questions about the groundings of your values themselves. This gets a bit tricky since people can get pretty stingy when their foundational beliefs and core principles are challenged but if done right this can make the conversation all the more fulfilling.
In summation both of these approaches have their own values and lack thereof and I’m not really saying whether what Scott did here as a description is useful or not. Perhaps think of this as a tangential side-note on descriptions themselves.
In describing anarchism however, it’s useful to relate to ideas of “consent”, “power”, “authority” and what it opposes which is “the state/government”. In defining anarchism I hope to, as a byproduct of doing so tease out my thoughts on such ideas themselves because of the discussion about anarchism.
First then, anarchism is etymologically rooted in Ancient Greek and translates to “without archons” meaning “without rulers”. What is a ruler? A ruler is someone who has power over another person. This power over someone is the particularly emphasized by anarchists. Anarchists don’t like it when power is exerted over other people. To them it more looks like that person is using their privilege (of whatever sort) on other people and this isn’t morally right. These typical relations in the anarchist’s view create power-disparities and reveal a sort of interesting idea of power. For anarchists the problem is not that power exists but that it is concentrated in the hands of the few at the detriment of the many. Anarchists see that power should instead be dispersed among the people and through this process it should displace those who are the rulers.
In effect this means things like government/state and other oppressive structures should be overthrown. How? Well this is where different schools of anarchists differ.
Insurrectionists believe in revolution. Anarcho-capitalists might think education, some bit of politics, supporting certain businesses that they feel reflect their own values and so on might do it. Agorists would believe in less political means (if any at all) and focus on things like counter-economics, education and building the new society within the shell of the old. Anarcho-syndicalists would want to use associations of workers to overthrow the state and capitalism and may or may not use politics as an ancillary tactic. And so on. How these rulers should be overthrown or gotten rid of or the chances of doing so in our lifetime and so on differ from anarchist to anarchist. Based on that alone I am obviously only speaking for myself when I lay out all of this ground work for this discussion between Scott and I.
I’m sure some may think I’m being unnecessarily long or complex in my response but I feel this is necessary because it could clear up some future possible confusions. And even if it’s not and it doesn’t accomplish that I think it at least really shows my honesty and good intentions behind this response.
To conclude on the anarchist section then, anarchists then see the state/government as basically a collection of rulers. A group of people who not only claim and use power over others but claim a monopoly on it within the geographic space they take up and claim. How this claim of monopoly and use of power and authority is justified is one of the biggest questions for political philosophers for me and any lack of seriousness in trying to resolve this question shows a lack of seriousness in the whole idea of political philosophy for me. Anarchists acknowledge this and thus take this problem head on and declare that the state and the government and other associations of rulers or individual rulers are not morally justified. Further, they’re not justified in even a utilitarian or a completely non-moral argument for the state. I’ll get into why that is in a bit.
To add one final note however, it should be remembered that fundamentally speaking, anarchists do support authority and power. They just don’t support the use of such concepts to justify those particular phenomenons playing against people and creating power disparities. Power and authority in oneself and with those who agree to it is fine but having it via undue privilege or maintaining power or authority over others through violence or backed through violence is not. It is the anarchist contention that at minimum the state more than satisfies these situations. I hope it shall become clear soon as this post goes on why that is.
A definition of the state/government
Although Scott never spells it out for us the definition of what he (now) supports is worth talking about for the broader conversation ahead of us. I myself tend to stay with the classic Weberian definition that is that a state is a community of people who have successfully managed to claim a monopoly on force (or violence) within a geographical territory. Why is this an apt definition?
First off states are only a group of particularly powerful people. They are only so powerful because either people believe so of their own independent will and views (maybe due to the superior attributes of these people in comparison to them) or they’ve been forced to believe such. You don’t have to be an anarchist to probably guess which one is actually more likely to happen. If you’re intent on gaining so much power over others you’re most likely not interested in doing it through simple persuasion.
Why is this exactly? Quite simply it’s easier just to force people to go along with things should you have the power. Now power and authority, while being interconnected ideas are not the same. These people may have power over others but having authority over them means they have some sort of right to have this power over them. This can either be a perceived power that the people think you have or that you’ve somehow convinced them you have or it’s one that you simply make a fact of reality through your own power. In the general sense, having power over things simply means having control and this is no different for the state/government. This community of people has a great amount of power over others and that point is not the point that shall be up for dispute between Scott and I.
What is up for debate among Scott and I is whether it has the authority, or right to hold such power. In other words, is it proper that states can exist in the form that they’ve always existed in? Scott can debate with my definition of the state if he wants and I can take him on there but he should keep in mind Weber was no anarchist. Max Weber was a sociologist who was just trying to explain what the state was and what politics was about so any claim about a bias in definition would be mistaken.
Contrary to that if I used accounts of the state via people like Frank Oppenheimer, Rothbard, David Graeber, Harold Barclay or other anarchist thinkers I’m sure the objection (while being a low-hanging fruit) would have much more weight to it. I could use these thinkers to further my point but I’ll leave it at what I’ve said.
One thing should be clear from all of this:
To be an anarchist is recognizing that there is a conflict between what we desire (individual liberty then extending to freely association based cooperative endeavors) and what the state actually does in practice. One of the fundamental things is recognizing that there is a conflict between state (or oppressive institutions in general) based authority and personal autonomy. Recognizing this inherent conflict means that the state and other similarly inherently oppressive institutions must be abolished. How that should be done and through what means and how those “other oppressive institutions” are defined really defines what sort of anarchist you are. There are, after all, many things after you accept the fundamentals of anarchist thought.
What is ”Politics”?
It’s certainly worth talking about since what we’re talking about is pretty much rooted in some of the most questions of political philosophy. I don’t accept the position that politics is just “the philosophy of the state” or anything like that. Politics is simply a conceptual device that help enable and organize the polis that is a community of people. Obviously in general when politics is discussed government is also being discussed but that assumes communities can’t exist or flourish without the state and that’s the exact proposition that anarchists are against. So in some sense anarchists could be called anti-politics but only the narrow way of talking about which many people tend to do. Nevertheless anarchists are only against certain kind of politics such as the kinds that are oppressive or tend to in general limit personal autonomy. Because we recognize government does that we oppose it.
Scott seems to love bringing up that tired old point (it’s tired and old for us anarchists!) that anarchism isn’t “practical” and is “utopian”,
“… or if one day anarchism may be chosen-though this looks unlikely.”
“ It’s a nice dream ,a democratic one at that but unnecessary and too extreme-there’s a lot of unreasonableness in it.”
I reject this idea at once and say that even if it was true it wouldn’t matter. Even if anarchism would never happen that’s not even the important point. The important point is recognizing the fundamental conflict of society vs. the state and realizing that we must keep pushing with society and against the state and whatever else you find state-like. Again, how to do it and what forces you exactly oppose and how you see the outcome playing out heavily determines what sort of anarchist you are. I’ll talk about my own means and hopeful ends as we go along but for now it’s worth mentioning that even if anarchism is impossible that the point is inconsequential to the anarchist. We don’t care if anarchism is impossible or if it isn’t, what we care about is limiting oppression as much as we can. Now and forevermore.
This doesn’t mean that we think abolish the state, etc. in our lifetimes but it does require a sort of dedication to basic principles and your own personal abstractions, elaborations and so on from there. But that being said I do think anarchism is likely to work. I think people can successfully self-organize themselves in voluntary manners and do so all of the time. If we take a look at societies all over the world people are doing this all of the time. And though they may be largely operating within state or other oppression based contexts they can still manage to self-manage themselves and cooperate with others in voluntary means. The fact that people all over the world can and do do this sort of thing even in such a bad system is not a success of the state and organizations like it but a failure of it. It shows the systempunkt of the state and other organizations like it. It shows that the human spirit is practically indomitable and won’t be broken by the environment or context they grow in.
The fact that this has no changed nearly as much as the anarchist would like it to however shows a darker side to this optimistic point of view. It also shows that people can take so much shit and deal with it if it means getting by and not having to do some hard work. But liberty demands hard work. As does an equality of authority. As does a culture of solidarity that brings people together and encourages mutual aid, voluntary cooperation and more. All of this takes a lot of hard work and people can and will do it…if they’re given the right reasons, incentives and directions. This doesn’t mean anarchists needs to be some elite-minded beings who shout orders from the top of ivory towers at those crawling on their knees looking for some bread crumbs. No, it means talking with all who would hear us, lending our hand when possible and making sure the new society built within the shell of the old happens and happens the right way. This takes good theory and good practice of course and both should be stressed about as much as the other in most cases. But none of that requires a lack of practical ideas or utopianism.
I find that when people say that ideas like anarchism are “impractical” or “utopian” they really just means it’s such in regards to their own desires. For instance even the minarchists wishes to have some security or services provided by the state and thus desires (whether they realize it or not is inconsequential) some organization has power over others. Obviously these base desires are at their core fundamentally opposed to the basic desires of anarchists and so to the minarchist this just proves the “unworkability” of anarchism. In reality, all it proves is that the minarchist does not appreciate personal freedom as much as they’d like to think. This isn’t to insult the minarchist (though I’m fairly sure some may take it as such) but just to point out what I honestly think of the same situation.
Similarly Scott doesn’t think (in summary from my own perspective) that the state is a much more reliable and secure way of defending the most disadvantaged from the evils of capital and modern-industry. In my view this completely contradicts the history of capitalist as a state-based system. You can see the evidence from such diverse people as Roy A Childs, Joseph Stromberg, Sheldon Richman, Roderick Long and Kevin Carson . The state has done nothing throughout its history if not promote the exact disadvantages that Scott wishes to fight against through the state. Now if this is accepted as the case then I ask Scott, who is being utopian here? The one who seeks and recognizes a constant struggle for personal autonomy or the person who thinks they can get protection from the minorities that have always been some of the biggest targets of states to begin with.
Don’t believe me? Look at what government did to mutual-aid medicine, what it does to the poor, what it does to basically create poverty as we know it, what it does to women, how it reinforces patriarchy and so on and so forth. I don’t think it can legitimately be argued that government has been historically a great defender of the poor. There’s simply no good reason to think as much. And though I realize this was a short post by Scott I wish he had given me good reasons to believe otherwise so I could at least get more of a perspective on why he thinks as much. Instead I’m just left scratching head and wonder, how am I the impractical person here?
One last thing on utoopianism and practicality and trying to switch this around so Scott actually realizes that it is his position that is impractical. How is it practical to rely on a model that has been around for hundreds of years as opposed to a system of self-organization among near-equals in tribes and communities that lasted for thousands of years? This form of organization according to people like Barclay and Graeber may not have been no anarchist fantasy land but they might as well have been in comparison to what we have now!
In this section I want to actually directly respond to a few sections of this post that Scott made.
First I want to start with his ideas on why taxation is not theft.
I quote him at length:
The majority consider taxation to be justified, an acceptable price to pay for gov intervention.They do not view it as theft.Theft is socially defined.Theft is only theft if it’s considered unjustified or unjustifiable.The “taxation is theft” argument misses the point that the majority do not see taxation as theft.And yes you can argue against that that they are wrong.But as long as the majority do not consider it as theft then the point is moot.They do not see taxation as on the same level as a robbery of a bank or a mugging of your wallet despite analogies which make that comparison. They see taxation as taking wealth to pay for what they perceive as the benefits of government. You could say well I don’t accept that. To the majority this is considered to be trying to free ride on government benefits while not paying for them.And yes it’s near impossible to escape from government intervention but the argument tends to run that government intervention is a fact of society which you have no choice but to accept when you enter into a society and your other option is leaving society for isolation or I guess(in theory) you could try to form a mini anarchist society. I certainly have no issue with that.
Theft is only considered theft if the taking is considered unjustified taking of someones stuff against there will but if the person whose being taken from consents and thinks it’s justified then it is.
I must, of course, break this up into sections but I’ll try to do my best to just analyze the most important parts of it.
“The majority consider taxation to be justified, an acceptable price to pay for gov intervention.They do not view it as theft.”
How does Scott know this? Based on some of the Ramussen reports in the US I’ve seen (here, here and here) it doesn’t look that promising. Furthermore, what does he base this on? I know he lives in England so the Ramussen reports in the US don’t have much bearing perhaps where he lives but what about the riots in England? I’m pretty sure that shows “a little” discontentment with the establishment at large in some way does it not? And again, what does it matter even if Scott is right? Scott repeats the fallacy that many people who support the state does:
1) Assume that most people accept the state as you do
2) Because social norms are based on general acceptance what is accepted is de facto rights
3) Because most people accept the state and because premise 2 is correct we can conclude that
4) The state is legitimate
Looking at the process like this I can tell you that I think this’d fail any logic test in any given college class.
First off, what makes you assume most people support the state? The over 50% who hardly vote in elections? The many people who don’t pay their taxes? The countless number of people who complain about government? I don’t understand where Scott is coming from there. Maybe it’s because he lives in England and maybe the situation is different there but I doubt it. Why? Because as I’ve already discussed populations typically don’t have much of a say with what the state does.
But enough of this, let’s move on.
“Theft is socially defined.Theft is only theft if it’s considered unjustified or unjustifiable. The “taxation is theft” argument misses the point that the majority do not see taxation as theft.”
In point of fact it is Scott and other people like him who make (I’m sorry to say) prime facie ridiculous arguments like this that miss the point. The law of gravity doesn’t become null just because a bunch of people come together (or a couple hundred, or a couple thousand or…) and decide it is. You have to actually prove why it’s unjustified or whatever. You can’t just saying a group of people (who agree with you) “Yeah! Fuck the law of gravity! Let’s fly!”. I think these people will be very disappointed.
Likewise I’m disappointed that Scott has chosen to resort to such a tired argument. I wish he could at least have tried to given some interesting arguments in favor of the state or taxation but he doesn’t. Instead he defers responsibility to the faceless masses (rendered faceless through the state of course) and tries to make it seem like ‘taxation is theft’ somehow misses the “point”. Maybe that’d be the case…if the point was actually substantial.
“And yes you can argue against that that they are wrong.But as long as the majority do not consider it as theft then the point is moot.”
Why? How is a point “moot” if a bunch of people disagree? Again, the law of gravity is just as valid even if a bunch of people disagree. Those people can disagree all they want and try jumping off cliffs (and to be extra sure of themselves they’d probably do best to not pack parachutes…just in case) then all they’ll have for this “moot” point is a broken body. Meanwhile I’ll be laughing over the supposed “mootness” of it all.
“They do not see taxation as on the same level as a robbery of a bank or a mugging of your wallet despite analogies which make that comparison. They see taxation as taking wealth to pay for what they perceive as the benefits of government.
Do all people consider all of the functions of government a benefit? Do you consider the wars that “your” government is involved to be a benefit? How about the border policies? The pension programs? The way the police tend to handle the poor? The cultural norms that government reinforces? You can’t expect me to agree that you agree with all of this let alone a partial grouping of the populace at large does let alone a majority.
“You could say well I don’t accept that. To the majority this is considered to be trying to free ride on government benefits while not paying for them.”
I couldn’t care less.
“And yes it’s near impossible to escape from government intervention but the argument tends to run that government intervention is a fact of society which you have no choice but to accept when you enter into a society and your other option is leaving society for isolation or I guess(in theory) you could try to form a mini anarchist society. I certainly have no issue with that.”
Well you may have no issue with that but what does that matter? Do you think government is going to just allow a separate community to try to be self-independent and want to extent this independence to other spheres? Do you think they’re not just gonna pull another Waco or Ruby Ridge and blame it on some “extremism” or another? You know better than this Scott, I know you do so act like it. Don’t be naive about this situation.
“Theft is only considered theft if the taking is considered unjustified taking of someones stuff against there will but if the person whose being taken from consents and thinks it’s justified then it is.”
The problem with this idea is that concepts don’t just legitimately become another concept just because you want it to. You can try to rationalize the highway robber all you want but what he is is still what he is whether you try to picture him as a unicorn or not.
Moving on to Scott’s ideas on property:
“Left wing critiques of property are valid I believe.Occupancy and Use should be the goal to aim for.
The majority considers absentee ownership wrong and I’d consider this faulty reasoning because the problems it results in.”
“Statism then runs into a problem.State claims to own roads etc are absentee ownership.”
Oh, how I wish Scott would’ve just taken this problem to it’s logical conclusion and then embraced a mutualism of sorts and we’d be golden! Unfortunately that’s not to be…
“The reply is that statism could be considered the only exception to that rule of thumb where state ownership in that way may be justified.”
Wait, why would the state be considered an exception? I guess this is why according to Scott:
“But the more reasonable reply is this:- the state is more a caretaker of roads etc than owner.It carries out the peoples will with our money.It’d be expensive and time consuming for us to do it ourselves.”
So less-costly roads means moral problems mean little to nothing I suppose. I also take an intellectual offense to the notion that somehow the state carries out my will with my money. How does it do this? Are the wars my will? Were the bailouts the American people’s will? It doesn’t seem like this idea actually works out in practice and that’s of course because it can’t due to how states have historically existed and what they fundamentally are. I’ve discussed both topics in depth and I’ve done this section in enough depth to satisfy myself so it’s time to move on.
Scott seems to think that anarchists are too “pessimist” or “cynical” as exemplified by these quotes:
“”Anarchism is too pessimistic and cynical about change.It’s unreasonable.”"
“Anarchism is quite an overemotional position.It’s extreme pessimism,extreme cynicism,frustration with misuse of power and with the status quo which goes to far.
Cynicism and pessimism is to some extent justified but anarchism goes too far.”
First of all, being cynical or pessimistic of certain things may or may not actually be the case because Scott’s viewpoint on government and other things is obviously different.
What’s “cynical” to Scott may just be a different understanding of government based on the history as anarchist’s see it. And having expectations on such a basis is probably not “cynical” or “pessimistic” it’s probably more along the lines of realism I’d say. I’d also say if you have a “friend” who lies to you quite a bit but tends to give back some money sometimes and you start saying to other people that they shouldn’t trust them and they don’t believe you I think it’s them that have their priorities out of line with each other. If you’re not paying attention to what the government is, has been and does then that’s one thing but don’t call people who do names just because you don’t agree. That’s not only a pretty petty argument against just about any idea but an also intellectually lazy argument as well.
The truth is that anarchists are skeptics of power in general and always tend to be. Scott admits as much when he says,
“Anarchists are useful however.They function like skeptics who challenge us to check our justifications and make valid points about ideology,democracy etc”
Except we aren’t like skeptics, we are skeptics! We’re probably some of the most skeptical people of power and authority and what’s wrong with that? When you look at the world and notice that so much harm has been done by power and authority that was mis-managed or left up to a small group of people except many different decentralized communities associating voluntarily why wouldn’t you be skeptical?
In general are anarchists pessimistic or cynical? I have no idea. I haven’t done my daily anarchist polls as of now so I’ll get back to you when I do. In all seriousness though I don’t really understand anarchists who are pessimistic or misanthropic. I tend to be pretty optimistic about the future despite the daily grind of life and so on. I just feel like if I don’t have hope that change will happen then it simply won’t. The attitude isn’t all there is for sure, but it’s definitely a big part of what makes any sort of change happen. And I just don’t see how being pessimistic or cynical in general aids the movement in any substantial way. I feel the same way about grudges, hate and self-loathing and so on. I just don’t get anarchists who say their viewpoints stems from their cyncicism. Well…why do you think anarchism can work? Why is it exempt?
But I digress. Scott wasn’t even talking about that sort of pessimism/cynicism and so that was just my own side-musings. Let’s move on.
As For The Rest…
Well it seems in my journey to define my terms I’ve actually taken you on quite a few times already Scott. But now I want to take around the other main points that I find should be addressed. I’ll try to do this in sequential order if possible.
Agreements (Sequentially ordered)
I’d first like to start where I don’t have much of a problem with Scott just so that’s taken care of:
“I reject the idea trade is inherently evil thus ruling out communism.”
“Profit as the sole motive of life/society is a corrupting influence…”
“I don’t believe we must use money just it seems the most useful way of doing things at this time.”
“I seek not a ‘better capitalism’.”
More or less the whole section “What can be done?”
All of the things above I more or less agree with. None of it suits me perfectly of course but I won’t quibble with Scott either. I’ve got bigger argument-like-fish to fry…er…yeah.
Disagreements (Sequentially Ordered)
(From Basic Political Principles)
“Profit as the sole motive of life/society is a corrupting influence and that’s what I view Capitalism as about.”
I actually agree and disagree with this statement! Let me explain.
So I’d agree with this statement if it were true. If it were true that profit in society/life is the sole motive behind it all then yeah, I’d be pretty disgusted. That said, it’s clearly not the case that this is it. Oh sure, profit plays a much bigger role in society than genuine goodness or good business practices and so on. If Scott had said that “profit as one of the major aspects of economic life is a corrupting factor and…” I probably wouldn’t debate this too much. But calling it a sole motivator seems too strong to me.
“If the majority believes X is a right then it’s irrelevant what the government thinks.”
Scott commits this problem early on and later on. But it’s just not a good argument no matter where it is. Let me make this abundantly clear:
Facts of life are not dependent on majority opinion. The majority can be wrong. They can lie. They can steal. They are human. They can make mistakes. Their words should not be treated as law.
I can’t stress those things damn well enough. Scott says later on that anarchists are “against majoritarianism” and he’s damn right I am! Especially when it leads to such terribly constructed arguments that he’s making it here. Premises that make people think so illogically and make them lead to terrible conclusions are things I’m gonna oppose. Majoritarianism fails for a few reasons:
1) It assumes that the majority have some sort of super justifying power
2) It assumes that somehow more people inherently=better reasoning (of any sort)
3) It assumes that moral reasoning is somehow out of the window or more or less correct based on more people’s reasoning
And it probably assumes a bunch of other specious things too. The point is, majoritarianism sucks. What do I support? I support direct democracy for sure. I support consensus based decision making within decentralized communities that are based on principles of free association, mutual benefit and voluntary cooperation. So I’m “anti-majoritarian” sure, but it’s not like I don’t have good reasons to be or don’t have alternatives. Not that Scott is saying anarchists don’t but I just want to make that clear either way.
“The Black Panthers were justified in using guns in there time but nowadays I’d rather we didn’t have them and that only police response firearm teams had them.”
This really bugs me. This is probably one of the biggest disappointments of the whole post for me. It literally made me shake my head in disgust at an opinion like this. It doesn’t make me dislike Scott or anything but…well let’s just look at this for what it is: disarming the proles to give the guns to the elites. Why would a social-democrat want to do that? Furthermore why would you trust the police to monopolize the guns? Are monopolies trustable now? I was fairly certain it was basic economics that monopolies are pretty unreliable organizations precisely because they are monopolies. I hate to say it dude and call Godwin’s law out if you want but the Nazis, the state-communist regimes and other authoritarian structures (like the state in general) disarm the proles for a reason, so they can’t fight back. I’m not saying I want people to kill police but goddamn man how can you trust the cops? I trust the Black Panthers over the cops any day. I know what their intentions were and I know who they were and why they planned on doing and I know they weren’t a monopoly and certainly weren’t trying to be.
The problem is: The police don’t have to try to be a monopoly. That’s what they are de facto.
As my friend Brad Spangler has said:
Police are a monopoly. Monopolies promote abuse. To abolish a monopoly is to open up the market to competition.
(From Capitalism and Socialism)
“Anarchy has problems of how to eradicate Capitalism and put Socialism in place.”
One of my main problems is illustrated here (and a bunch of other places). Scott just. asserts. and. never. explains. I’ve had this problem with Scott before unfortunately. He’ll tell me his position but never even attempt to give me good reasons to believe what he’s saying is the case or to favor it or whatever. He does a lot of that in this post unfortunately. Don’t believe me?
“Anarchism is wrong.Things have improved.”
“An institution itself can be justified but not certain actions it does.”
“Anarchism is too pessimistic and cynical about change.It’s unreasonable.
It dismisses majority opinion.”
“Government limits everything.”
“You should only claim as much as you need or can use.”
Look Scott, I know this is a basics post but come on. You gotta give people something more to work with. A lot of these statements (and perhaps I even missed one or two) are just so question-begging and thus weak. There’s no reason to engage with them. I just would keep repeating the same thing: Why?
(From Is government Unnecessary)
“We can’t really answer this.”
Clearly someone can…maybe it’s just not you Scott.
“We don’t have clear examples of anarchism to point to and so it’s unfair to use those to try to answer yes.”
This is a very debatable subject. There’s even an idea from anthropologists (largely anarchists but some not) that most of human society has been lived in an anarchic way. As I mentioned earlier these weren’t by any means necessary very likable on some levels but compared to now? It’d be a godsend in some ways at least.
But let’s take the offensive here:
Keeping in mind my comments about how society has basically always existed before states as well as me not really listing even the tip of the iceburg of possible links or speculations on what is or is not anarchism. My point isn’t to even sell you on the point that anarchism has existed (though I think it’s pretty self-evident that in some limited fashion or another it quite obviously has) but just that this is a debatable point that you shouldn’t just assume you’re right about so quickly.
(From How is Government Legitimate?)
Most of this is just re-hashing of more majoritarian nonsense (sorry to be harsh to you Scott but it’s true…) but this sticks out:
“By joining society and knowing it’s procedures,you consent to democracy??”
No. Quite simply no. First off, people can lie to you about the procedures. They can, for example tell people coming from outside that their the “land of the free” and gold is plentiful and government is great and blah blah blah but if it’s horseshit how much informed consent was actually going on there? How much legitimacy does a lying and failing government have over someone? Governments don’t in general of course but even you have to admit that this idea of yours (even if you’re just asking) is pretty weak and can be shown that fairly easy and quickly. So you might want to rethink that idea.
(From Government Aggression)
“Somethings are considered too risky or dangerous or bad to allow.It’s a debate what these things are.Government’s force is considered legitimate to prevent harm in some sense.”
This is actually another example of Scott’s, “because I say so” argumentation. I can’t stress enough that I do know this is just a laying out of some basic principles and what they translate into but some sort of justification should be given towards why these translations are sound. I can’t think of any good reason to not at lest give some basic justifications to these claims. Scott even did as much for the ‘taxation is theft’ argument and why he didn’t buy it…granted it wasn’t good reasoning in my opinion but at least he tried!
Here however, there’s no attempt to really even try to justify why government’s violence is needed. I certainly have never really needed it’s violence in my life and I think I’d be a lot better off without it. How does Scott get the right to impose a system on me that I don’t want? How does the majority get that right? I don’t have the right to impose my will on others so how does that obvious principle get changed when there are just more people who believe it’s right to impose their system on others? That’s probably one of the biggest problems for people who support the state in my opinion. How do you get the right to do something that other people wouldn’t have the right to do otherwise?
The argument might go like this:
Well if we don’t force our preferences on others people’s security won’t be stable or it’ll be chaos!” and so on and so forth. This of course assumes people don’t value security once government is gone but history tells us otherwise. If you go back before there was any government people valued security as they do today. They may of had different means to achieve it and tools to get there but the desire was still there with or without government. Giving an organization a monopoly over deciding who is and who isn’t legitimate security doesn’t promote security because monopolies don’t promote cooperation or competition in any real substantial sense to begin with. All it does is create an upper class of ”security providers” who can charge exorbitant rates for their service due to the monopoly of force (government) backing them.
There’s simply no good reason to believe that governments should exist.
(From Consent and Government Authority)
This pretty much sums up a good portion of Scott’s ideas of the world. He thinks matters of property, consent and government is just “common sense”. You’ll notice that I’ve not claimed that any of the conclusions I’ve reached are easy to get to or are going to be seen as common sense by most people. It may be common sense to me but that’s certainly not the same thing as it just being common sense in general. I don’t think these things are “simple” and I don’t think they should be treated as such. Anarchists aren’t immune to treating things in a simple manner, no one is. Once you get used to analyzing things in a certain pattern and you see a similar concept or phenomenon that you think you’ve seen before it’s easy to say, “oh that’s simple it’s X! So you just do J, X and B!”. It’s easy for anarchists to look at problems and say, “oh that’s an easy one! Just abolish the state!” but matters aren’t so simple and you can’t just think the answers are always going to fit into your pattern.
But enough of that, it’s worth noting that what Scott thinks is “pretty simple” here is:
“You consent to Gov’s authority when you see it’s reasoning as justified e.g. stopping rape.So when you don’t see it’s authority as justified you rebel.”
“ So saying it’s authority is never justified seems extreme and goes too far.”
Scott’s answers here are (not surprisingly) simplistic and here’s why.
He thinks if you find the government’s reasoning justified then that equals consent but precisely because he thinks it’s as simple as that he mistakes finding justification in something to necessarily equal consent. Saying, “Oh yeah, what you did was right!” isn’t the same thing as saying, “Oh yeah I totally consent to what just happened!”. Even if you think what someone does is actually reasonable to do that doesn’t mean you want it to be that way.
For instance, just because I think it might be reasonable to have things like defense and security and because no other good alternative exists right now and because the US government has caused so much destruction abroad I don’t think it’d be necessarily good to get rid of the military altogether at this moment. I may think then, that a sort of national defense (only staying within the borders of the country even if I don’t believe in either concept) is vastly preferable to the current scheme of things. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way I want it much less that I am consenting to it being done.
(From on Anarchism)
I’m gonna address one other quote from his post after these next two but then I’ll go into two big sections of special responses I want to do. Let’s get started with this however:
“Anarchism is quite an overemotional position”
“I was swayed back to anarchism more by emotions…”
It seems to me that Scott likes to discard anarchism on a basis of mere say-so. I’d argue that the position of anarchism is pretty logical and anarchism (from my experience) tends to attract pretty logical people. This isn’t to say they’re perfect (or perfectly logical or whatever and they aren’t) but I don’t think this criticism of being “overly-emotional” has any real weight to it.
There’s actually way that this “criticism” can be seen as just a truism because perhaps being labeled “overly-emotional” is just a matter of time when you think so much of society is rooted in things that you do not want to have in a society. If caring for my fellow man and not wanting them to live in societies and worlds based on idiotic and very harmful notions of what the “good life” is and this is called being “overly-emotional” then I suppose I must confess to having all of the emotions in the world that Scott is capable of feeling! The only difference between Scott and I is that I not only feel those feelings for me fellow man but I use them to express my moral anguish for a world gone so wrong.
On another note however it just seems that Scott is the one being overly-emotional here. The second quote reveals to us that Scott actually came back to anarchism for largely emotional reasons and not actually logical ones. So perhaps he’s basing his attack on anarchism in general based on his own specific mistakes. But of course his own mistakes doesn’t necessarily mean that anarchism at large actually shares these flaws at all in the least. It just means Scott didn’t choose good reasons to go back to anarchism. How is this the fault of a political philosophy if you choose it for poor reasons? There are very good reasons to accept anarchism and it certainly looks like Scott didn’t choose them…but how is that the fault of anarchism? Furthermore, how does this necessarily mean that other people must do the same thing when they embrace the idea of anarchism? None of this makes much sense on just about any level.
(On Countervailing Power)
“”All authority needs something to prevent it’s overreach ,limit it and direct it.”
This is actually a fine statement…but only by itself and not where Scott actually takes it:
“Government limits everything.
Big business has it’s anti-corporate challengers.
Bosses have unions.”
The first thing is pretty preposterous (and no example are given for how government does it either theoretically, ideally or in practice or in history, etc. etc.) because it just question-begs. This is especially so for the anarchist who is left scratching their head. Sure…all of this theoretically exists but what evidence do you have that any of this matters? Government seems to enable big business and it’s specifically because the state exists that corporations can exist. After all, corporations are just businesses that have a state-permit that give them incorporation privileges and they get those privileges from the state. Big business may have it’s anti-corporate challengers but what does government do to them? They actually use the regulation to put them down and those regulations are favored and lobbied for by the corporations. After all, those corporations can just get over these barriers to entry while the small businesses now struggle to keep up. The ruling class wins.
Speaking of ruling class victories the arguments against big business goes as much against the big labor unions who use government privilege to make sure that the bosses within it get good paychecks while the less skilled workers have to deal with crappy results. You can see the evidence in this in Kevin Carson’s work both on labor struggle and monopoly capital I believe if you’e looking for evidence of that. I’ve already provided work to cite for the past assertions about how government does not limit anything (except maybe the ruled class’s abilities to make a living or live a good life).
This is something that I think deserves more attention in the anarchist movement: the abolition of prisons.
“”It seems to me that anarchism should not/need not rule out prisons altogether.That seems crazy.”
I don’t think it’s crazy at all and I shall argue at length that it’s actually “crazy” to think we shouldn’t get rid of prisons. There are several essays written by anarchists that are worth mentioning: Kropotkin’s, Goldman’s and de Cleyre’s . I’ve also watched this documentary and it explains in many different ways and through different people and viewpoints how prisons (and punishment more broadly) has failed society.
One of the main points that can be taken from all of these works is simple: Prisons don’t rehabilitate. They utterly fail at one of the main objectives is supposedly for erecting a prison to begin with. Prisons are supposed to be about making hardened criminals or bad people better or teaching them to be more virtuous so they can return to society changed. But how monstrous of a lie this is! When one looks at the brutal conditions that prisons are with their filth, grit, degradation of the human spirit and basic condition, an institution rife authoritarian individuals as well as hard drugs, rape, violence and more how can one expect virtue of all things to come out of such a place?
Voltairine de Cleyre summed up this argument well in her essay “Crime and Punishment”,
“Logic would say that anyone who wished to obliterate cruelty from the character of another must himself show no cruelty ; one who would teach regard for the rights of others must himself be regardful. Yet the story of exile and prison is the story of the lash, the iron, the chain and every torture that the fiendish ingenuity of the non-criminal class can devise by way of teaching criminals to be good ! To teach men to be good, they are kept in airless cells, made to sleep on narrow planks, to look at the sky through iron grates, to eat food that revolts their palates, and destroys their stomachs,— battered and broken down in body and soul ; and this is what they call reforming men!
Do you think people come out of a place like that better ? with more respect for society ? with more regard for the rights of their fellow men ? I don’t. I think they come out of there with their hearts full of bitterness, much harder than when they went in.”
I simply don’t understand what’s so crazy to seek an abolition of such an environment. Does Scott mean to suggest it’s crazy to not punish wrong-doing? Has he considered what little good punishment has done? Has he considered that many people seem to learn by example rather than just by some pie-in-the-sky notion of “retribution based justice” (what a farce that is knowing revenge full well as we should!) that people think reforms men. It does not reform them, prisons do not reform people and punishments in general tends to be a destabilizing factor in the progress of man than an enabler of further stable social-relations. What have punishments from the state done for us? What have those “oh so wise” judges and legislatures done for our understanding of justice? What have they done with the beggers, those who sleep on the street cold at night, those who must sell their body to make end’s meat, what have they done with the drug-users who need the friendly hand of solidarity and need not the cruel bars of prisons and state-authority? They have put them away! Locked them up with the rest of the people, no discrimination, no need for learning lessons, putting many to death (usually wrongly if the act isn’t wrong in of itself). How is it crazy to want to undo this sort of slavery?
Indeed, the relations that happened in prison are nothing if not slavery. The prisoners virtually have no rights except those granted to them. They make no money for any work they do and any money they do make goes inside the prison to further the relations but only inside those cruel walls! There is no possibility for free and equal people who live in a common brotherhood to exist inside those prison walls.
Now let me be clear, I am no pacifist. I fully support the right of other people to defend themselves if they wish against aggressive force. I support the use of non-violent social-pressures such as shaming, blacklisting, ostracism, boycotting and more. These are all forms of “punishment” if you care to call it such but they are of a different sort entirely. They do not have the cold meanness of the prisons, those cold walls and cold floors, those “guards” of the prisons who we know from things like the Stanford Prison Experiment can very much as easily become tyrants in such scenarios.
But perhaps the morality of the situation does nothing to convince you Scott. What then of the costs? Emma Goldman in her essay “Prisons: A Social Crime and Failure back in the early 20th century said:
“We are spending at the present $3,500,000 per day, $1,000,095,000 per year, to maintain prison institutions, and that in a democratic country,–a sum almost as large as the combined output of wheat, valued at $750,000,000, and the output of coal, valued at $350,000,000. Professor Bushnell of Washington, D.C., estimates the cost of prisons at $6,000,000,000 annually, and Dr. G. Frank Lydston, an eminent American writer on crime, gives $5,000,000,000 annually as a reasonable figure. Such unheard-of expenditure for the purpose of maintaining vast armies of human beings caged up like wild beasts!”
Since then the US has only expanded and so have the prisons. The US has one of the largest prison populations (if not the largest) on the entire planet. But has this made the US a safer place? Has it made prisons less costly? How about the burden on the taxpayer? The fair treatment of prisoners? what has building more prisoners done besides increase the collective misery of all those who are involved? The notable exception being those private businesses and local and state governments (and governments in general) that seem to make profit off of the lives of people treated so maliciously. But one should not expect any less of so-called “state justice”!
Kropotkin reconfirms my former point at the start about how prisons do not reform prisoners in his essay “Prisons and their Moral Influence on Prisoners” he says at the outset that,
“Once a man has been in prison, he will return. It is inevitable, and statistics prove it. The annual reports of the administration of criminal justice in France show that one-half of all those tried by juries and two-fifths of all those who yearly get into the police courts for minor offences received their education in prisons. Nearly half of all those tried for murder and three-fourths of those tried for burglary are repeaters. As for the central prisons, more than one-third of the prisoners released from these supposedly correctional institutions are reimprisoned in the course of twelve months after their liberation.
Another significant angle is that the offence for which a man returns to prison is always more serious than his first. If, before, it was petty thieving, he returns now for some daring burglary; if he was imprisoned for the first time for some act of violence, often he will return as a murderer. All writers on criminology are in accord with this observation. Former offenders have become a great problem in Europe…”
Can it be any clearer than this? To be sure Kropotkin was talking about a different country a few hundred years ago but is there any good reason to think things have stayed the same let along gotten any better? I have not seen the evidence from all of these people who oppose prisons and have clearly done their research. I am, of course, open to the possibility that maybe these people are showing only one side of the story and perhaps prisons do rehabilitate people but that doesn’t seem likely to me either way. Again, how could such a brutal and unloving institution create loving and kind people? Perhaps some of them will not only overcome this environment and turn away from the brutality of the system and become better but how likely is that? I doubt you’d find them in the few, let alone in the many.
I’m sure there’s more to say about this topic but I’ve said enough for now. I’ll leave it with Scott to decide for himself who’s the one who is actually crazy here.
“It’s unclear how much anarchism can achieve or how it can reach anarchy EVER. Statism has clear but imperfect methods.It does not.How can you work to achieve something without even the faintest idea how?? The difference is statists have legislation as well as voluntary organization etc. How can the entire capitalist and statist order be overturned.Looks unlikely to ever happen.”
This is probably one of the biggest points of contention between Scott and I and it’ll be the last one I bring up in this conversation.
“”It’s unclear how much anarchism can achieve or how it can reach anarchy EVER. Statism has clear but imperfect methods.It does not.How can you work to achieve something without even the faintest idea how??”
Scott seems to think that just having clear and well-established methods of achieving something makes it inherently better. I think this is ludicrous.
Let’s take an easy example: Do you think someone who was in the Nazi party and had more control at the time in Germany had more concrete ways “forward” then someone who was rebelling against it and wanted different means employed? Does the fact that the Nazi party have more clearly defined methods to achieve their ends inherently make their means good or their ends desirable? I don’t see it as being necessarily the case that just because A has more definable goals and methods than B then B is the party that necessarily has the worst of the two’s methods or ends. That doesn’t follow at all in these two examples or in Scott’s sentence.
So what if statism has clear methods? What does that matter? If the clear methods are clearly immoral and the vague methods are at least more clearly a little bit moral which are you going to side with? Are you just going to pick the state-based methods just because you’re more clear on what they are? I’ve actually encountered a libertarian who believed this. He told me that he preferred politics over agorism because at least he knew what he was aiming for. And even though I explained to him the means and ends he just waved his hand aside and kept pressing that tired old idea that you’re saying here as well.
But of course this assumes that Scott is even right from the get-go. Unfortunately for Scott he isn’t. And he must’ve not been paying much attention as an anarchist to think as much. Anarchists like to focus on action and theory. Sometimes one wins out more than the other (usually theory since that’s at least [for now] safer than the action we might want to take) but that doesn’t mean the other side isn’t actually there to begin with. And at any rate anarchists do have clear methods and ideas of how to get to here from there. Now you can criticize those various idea sand deny those are practical but to deny they exist full out is just intellectually dishonest.
Here are just a few examples:
Four articles by myself on means anarchists should support (which includes quite a few articles, videos and so on that I think give valuable insights towards strategy: Agorism, Direct Action, Dual/Counter Power Strategy, Education (External and Self)
In fact, I don’t see a need to go beyond that. Just linking even one of them with all of those materials that are involved makes your point obviously incorrect. Anarchists do have means and each one of us has our own program of how to get from here to there. Obviously that doesn’t mean there is a true anarchist program out there or one that everyone agrees to of course but the same is with any political philosophy really. Maybe anarchists take that basic commonality that tons of people have in movements or something but I can’t see how that’s a bad thing necessarily let alone makes us not have any clearness in our means or goals.
I’ve focused on this one point enough however and would like to move on.
“The difference is statists have legislation as well as voluntary organization etc. How can the entire capitalist and statist order be overturned.Looks unlikely to ever happen.”
While it was nice of Scott to do the differentiation between state-based law creating institutions for me but I think I could’ve done it fine by myself. Either way while it does look unlikely that capitalism and the state can be overthrown or abolished in our lifetime I’m confident it’ll either get there or the system will collapse before we get close. I’m obviously not cool with that happening which is why I think it’s a gradual process of building alternative and counter social-relations, institutions and general associations in opposition to and to counter-balance state oppression with voluntary liberation.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
While I don’t want to focus on this blog post itself too much longer I do want to stress that I have a particular end goal in mine myself.
I favor anarchism. To me this means a never-ending history of progress, change and adaptation by people through voluntary cooperation, mutual-beneficial relations and in a culture of solidarity that has people helping each other through the many pains and losses of life. I support such diverse means of achieving these ends through the radicalization of unions and works, the use of the common people to overthrow the people on top with a libertarian consciousness in mind, through an agorist-cadre, through countless (mostly) non-violent, education and practice based efforts. I have said previously:
“Well every anarchist has their own way of thinking about this and of course there’s no “THE anarchist way” so what I say here is certainly more likely to be indicative of my *own* preferences than everyone else’s. In that light, if I can’t give you good enough answers then I’d encourage you to not think that no one could. Not that I think you would, but I just think that’s worth mentioning.
Anyways, the beginnings of just about *any* movement (in my eyes at least) is education. So the start of any sort of big culture/paradigm/power/etc. etc. shift that you’d want to happen would probably first have to be understood. By how many people? Definitely not the majority of people in a country. In fact, I’d suggest you probably only need multiple groups of associations that all have core dedicated members that understand what the means and ends are. With that in place you’re sure to attract more and more people as that goes on.
Now what *would* the anarchist educate someone on first in one of these associations? Perhaps helping them *question* authority or power structures in general or even specifically the government. Critical thinking is pretty key to anarchist thought (as you might imagine) so encouraging that sort of behavior in society may be one of the first things these associations would do.
These associations could take form through cooperative schools, free schooling, unschooling, homeschooling and even some upper schooling or just places for people to get together and listen to speeches, read pamphlets, zines and books and talk together (like a cafe or something). And of course other forms could take place for education.
These associations could *also* (once they’re educated on the means and ends more) could engage in things such as direct action, counter-economic activity, dual power strategy (if they get far enough) and more. If they’re educated enough on the means and ends, can get around the flaws of the system and have some of the surrounding communities on their side (which will obviously require community involvement and help via things like Food Not Bombs as a prerequisite, etc.) then it’s possible they could grow more and more *without* much government intervention. And any intervention would be met with public backlash.
As the associations get bigger and bigger and the core groups keep reaching out and providing services (especially to the poor, minorities, the oppressed in general) that the government either can’t as cheaply, won’t and so on people will stop obeying the state and start obeying their own moral consciences as well as the principles of general voluntary cooperation and so on.Not *everyone* would do this of course but I think you’d have quite a number of people doing this and it’d make it *very* hard for a government to be re-established since it wouldn’t be needed let alone desired among most people.
And then we’re home (for the anarchist anyways…) and away from the state. As time goes along the associations of the revolution can re-appropriate government property and it can return to the commons. People will segregate among their own likes, dislike, tastes and so on and won’t be coerced or forced to join in some “identity” that they don’t want or never asked for. Will it be perfect? Will it be utopia? No. It won’t. I can’t stress that enough, it *won’t* be perfect. I don’t think *anything* can be perfect. I just think it’ll result in a system of social-relations that are *much* preferable to the current society.”
And I still stand by these statements. I think change will come from the bottom up, one way or another this is how it must be and how it will have to happen. In the end the masses must throw off the yoke of oppression should we as libertarians want any chance in hell of achieving a truly freed society. My hope is that it does not take insurrection or violence or anything remotely like a police force or prison system to achieve these ends. However when I call for the overthrow of systems I seriously mean it and I certainly think there must be violence at some capacity. But do I prefer it? Do I want it? Will I participate in it? The answer in the first two is no (as of now) and the answer to the third is most likely not (as of now). I don’t think violence of the military or state or xenophobes we oppose so much or punishment in the way of prisons or the police man is what the anarchist should employ as a means of getting to what we want.
Nevertheless it is most probable that some will employ violence even if somehow a libertarian consciousness was instilled in people. This consciousness or the beginnings of it doesn’t have to be in the masses, at least not at first. It could be among core groups of dedicated people that in turn have dedicated people to the movement that keep building on one another. In the end I am conflicted about the possibilities for revolution. One one hand I’ve been talking about the masses and needing them at some level but I also think we may not in the end. Perhaps it’ll just be those core groups building a solid enough base among communities to get the job done. I’ll leave it at saying that there are multiple possibilities I find tenable.
The main part is instilling our values in other people or dedicated groups and going from there with further action and theory. For myself those main 3 values are:
Liberty for the individual. This means the individual is free to associate with those who also wish to associate with them. They can live as they wish insofar as their existence or actions that come from their existence negates the ability for others to act as they please (unless they’re trying to harm others or build institutions that would do the same, etc.). Liberty for the individuals also necessarily translates into the liberty of associations, collectives and cooperatives. Though some libertarians may not want to see it this way because the liberty of the individual is essential to these groupings existing to begin with it is only fair to defend these things as well.
Equality of political authority. Following in the footsteps of people like Jefferson, Locke and the call for equality by Roderick Long in his “Equality: The Unknown Ideal” I support an equality among people in their decisions over themselves. This manifests into my support of such things such as direct democracy, community organizing, direct action and consensus based decision making. Equality of political authority (and really authority in general) reaffirms a basic anarchist concern of power relations. We do not wish power between people to be completely out of balance so that other people (like bosses, or husbands or the state and so on) can just dominate the weaker.
In the interest of protecting the weak or weaker however a culture of solidarity should be built. This means that people support each other through the many pains and struggles of life. These things will occur all through life and won’t just magically go away just because we have anarchism. Anarchism, like life, is a constant experience and one filled with many errors and mistakes that teach us to be better. We should have a culture that promotes a feeling of brotherhood among those who wish to embrace it. Certainly some will want to live by themselves or their own communities and want to just be self-sufficient in that context and that’s fine. But I’d like to also see networked communities for things like defense, mutual-aid and other greatly needed services.
I think this greatly increases the backbone of any anarchist society. I think the first value (liberty) is the beginning of that backbone and the next two things are the two necessary layers that make it that much more tough to be broken. My values thus are Liberty, Equality and Solidarity.
I hope some day that these values shall be spread throughout the world and people will embrace them in their own unique and individual ways. Voltairine de Cleyre spoke of two spirits:
“There are two spirits abroad in the world, – the spirit of Caution, the spirit of Dare, the spirit of Quiescence, the spirit of Unrest; the spirit of Immobility, the spirit of Change; the spirit of Hold-fast-to-that-which-you-have, the spirit of Let-go-and-fly-to-that-which-you-have-not; the spirit of the slow and steady builder, careful of its labors, loath to part with any of its achievements, wishful to keep, and unable to discriminate between what is worth keeping and what is better cast aside, and the spirit of the inspirational destroyer, fertile in creative fancies, volatile, careless in its luxuriance of effort, inclined to cast away the good together with the bad.”
I am hoping, as an anarchist, for the spirit of Dare to win out in the end.