Anarchism: Arguments for and against
The Historical Background to Anarchism
Inalienable Tenets of Anarchism
If Mankind is Born Free, Slavery is Murder
As Slavery is Murder, so Property is Theft
If Property is Theft, Government is Tyranny
If Government is Tyranny, Anarchy is Liberty
The Role of an Anarchist in an Authoritarian Society
Immediate Aims of the Anarchist
How Will a Revolution Come About?
Bringing About the New Society
What Constitutes an Authoritarian Society?
The Abolition of the Wage and Monetary Systems
Is Anarchism Compatible with Capitalism?
Need There be a Transitional Society?
The Employers Do Not Give Work
Can Public Opinion Itself be Authoritarian?
The Marxist Criticism of Anarchism
The Social-Democratic Critique of Anarchism
The Liberal-Democratic Objection to Anarchism
The Fascist Objection to Anarchism
The Average Person’s Objection to Anarchism
The Historical Background to Anarchism
It is not without interest that what might be called the anarchist approach goes back into antiquity; nor that there is an anarchism of sorts in the peasant movements that struggled against State oppression over the centuries. But the modern anarchist movement could not claim such precursors of revolt as its own more than the other modern working class theories. To trace the modern Anarchist movement we must look closer to our own times. While there existed libertarian and non-Statist and federalist groups, which were later termed anarchistic in retrospect, before the middle of the nineteenth century, it was only about then that they became what we now call Anarchists.
In particular, we may cite three philosophical precursors of Anarchism, Godwin, Proudhon, and perhaps Hegel. None of these was in fact an Anarchist, though Proudhon first used the word in its modern sense (taking it from the French Revolution, when it was first used politically and not entirely pejoratively). None of them engaged in Anarchist activity or struggle, and Proudhon engaged in parliamentary activity. One of the poorest, though ostensibly objective, books on Anarchism, Judge Eltzbacher’s Anarchism, describes Anarchism as a sort of hydra-headed theory some of which comes from Godwin or Proudhon or Stirner (another who never mentions anarchism), or Kropotkin, each a different variation on a theme. The book may be tossed aside as valueless except in its description of what these particular men thought. Proudhon did not write a programme for all time, nor did Kropotkin in his time write for a sect of Anarchists. But many other books written by academics are equally valueless: many professors have a view of anarchism based on the popular press. Anarchism is neither a mindless theory of destruction nor, despite some liberal-minded literary conceptions, is it hero-worship of people or institutions, however liberated they might be.
Godwin is the father of the Stateless Society movement, which diverged into three lines. One, that of the Anarchists (with which we will deal). Two, that of classic American Individualism, which included Thoreau and his school, sometimes thought of as anarchistic, but which equally gives rise to the ‘rugged individualism’ of modern ‘libertarian’ capitalism and to the pacifist cults of Tolstoy and Gandhi which have influenced the entire hippy cult. Individualism (applying to the capitalist and not the worker) has become a right-wing doctrine.
The second line of descent from Godwin is responsible for the ‘Pacifist Anarchist’ approach or the ‘Individualist Anarchist’ approach that differs radically from revolutionary anarchism in the first line of descent. It is sometimes too readily conceded that ‘this is, after all, anarchism’. Pacifist movements, and the Gandhian in particular, are usually totalitarian and impose authority (even if only by moral means); the school of Benjamin Tucker — by virtue of their individualism — accepted the need for police to break strikes so as to guarantee the employer’s ‘freedom’. All this school of so-called Individualists accept, at one time or another, the necessity of the police force, hence for Government, and the definition of anarchism is no Government.
The third school of descent from Godwin is simple liberalism, or conservative individualism.
Dealing here with the ‘first line of descent’ from Godwin, his idea of Stateless Society was introduced into the working class movement by Ambrose Cuddon (jun). His revolutionary internationalist and non-Statist socialism came along the late days of English Chartism. It was in sympathy with the French Proudhonians. Those who in Paris accepted Proudhon’s theory did not consider themselves Anarchists, but Republicans. They were for the most part self-employed artisans running their own productive businesses. The whole of French economy was geared both to the peasantry and to the artisan — this, the one-person business of printer, bookbinder, wagon and cart maker, blacksmith, dressmaker, goldsmith, diamond polisher, hat maker as distinct from the factory or farm worker of the time, who worked for an employer. Independent, individualistic and receiving no benefit from the State but the dubious privilege of paying taxes and fighting, they were at that time concerned to find out an economic method of survival and to withstand encroaching capitalism.
Marx described them as ‘petty bourgeois’, which had a different meaning in the nineteenth century. He justifiably claimed that these ‘petty bourgeois’ were not as disciplined as the then factory workers (he despised farm workers) and said that when they were forced into industry they did not faithfully follow the line laid down by a disciplined party from outside the class, but were independent of mind and troublesome to organisation imposed from above, their frustration often leading to violence. They moved to anarchism and through syndicalism spread it through the working class. (This claim is echoed by Marxists nowadays, when the term ‘petty bourgeois’ means something utterly different — solicitors and chartered accountants — and thus makes Marx’s quite sensible analysis sound utterly ridiculous.)
These French and English movements came together in the First International. The International Workingmen’s Association owed its existence to Marx, indirectly to Hegelian philosophy. But within the International, there was not only the ‘scientific socialism’ of Marx, but also Utopian Socialism, Blanquism (working-class republicanism), English Trade Unionism, German-authoritarian and opportunistic socialism, and Spanish, Swiss, and Italian stateless socialism, as well as national Republicanism and the various federalistic trends.
Bakunin was not the ‘father’ of anarchism, as often described. He was not an anarchist until later in life. He learned his federalism and socialism from the Swiss workers of the Jura, and gave expression to the ideas of the Godwinian and Proudhonian ‘federalists’, or non-State socialists. In many countries, Spain and Italy in particular, it was Bakunin’s criticism of the ideas of Marx that gave the federalist movement its definition. (While to Anarchists, Marx is of course “the villain of the piece” in the International, it must be granted that without Marx defining one form of socialism there would have been no clash, no Bakunin defining the opposite.)
There had grown up by 1869 a very noticeable trend within the International that was called ‘Bakuninist’ which was in one line from Godwin and another from Proudhon. When the Paris Commune exploded in the face of the International, it was the parting of the ways (though this was deferred a little longer and seemed to follow personal lines). From the non-Anarchists and Marxists knew by their different analyses and interpretations and actions during the Paris Commune, that they were separate.
All the same, for many years Anarchists continued to form part of the Socialist Movement that included Marxists and Social-Democrats. Marx had not succeeded in building a mass movement. The German socialist movement was more influenced by Lassalle; English socialism by reformist and Christian traditions of radical nonconformity. Only after Marx’s death, when Marxism was the official doctrine of German social-democracy, were Anarchists finally excluded from Socialist Internationals; social-democracy marched on to its own schism, that between English Liberalism on the one hand, and social-democracy on the other; and that between ‘majority’ Social-Democrats (Bolsheviks, actually never more than a minority) and reformism.
There were no such schisms at that time in the anarchist movement as such. Popular opinion made such figures as Tolstoy into (what he never claimed to be) an anarchist (he was not; neither in the normal sense of the words was he a Christian or a Pacifist, as popularly supposed, but his idolators always know better than he), but derived from the ‘second line’ of Godwinism like many other caricature-Anarchists. What we may call ‘mainstream’ anarchism was coherent and united, and was given body by the writings of a number of theoreticians, such as Peter Kropotkin.
After the bloody suppression of the Paris Commune, and repression in many parts of the world — notably Tsarist Russia, Anarchism passed into its well-known stage of individual terrorism. It fought back and survived and gave birth to (or was carried forward in) the revolutionary syndicalist movement which began in France. It lost ground after the First World War, because of the revival of patriotic feeling, the growth of reformist socialism, and the rise of fascism; and while it made a contribution to the Russian Revolution, it was defeated by the Bolshevik counterrevolution. It was seen in both resistance and in a constructive role in the Spanish Revolution of 1936.
By the time of the Second World War, Anarchism had been tried and tested in many revolutionary situations and labour struggles. Alternative forms had been tried and discarded; the German Revolution had introduced the idea of Workers Councils. The experience of the American IWW had shown the possibilities of industrial unionism and ‘how one can build the new society in the shell of the old’. In the ‘flint against flint’ argument against Marxist Communism, the lesson of what socialism without freedom meant in Russia, and the failure of reformist socialism everywhere, the anarchist doctrine was shaped.
There were never theoreticians of Anarchism as such, though it produced a number of theoreticians who discussed aspects of the philosophy. Anarchism has remained a creed that has been worked out in practice rather than from a philosophy. Very often, a bourgeois writer comes along and writes down what has already been worked out in practice by workers and peasants; he is attributed by bourgeois historians as being a leader, and by successive bourgeois writers (citing the bourgeois historians) as being one more case that proves the working class relies on bourgeois leadership.
More often, bourgeois academics borrow the name ‘Anarchism’ to give expression to their own liberal philosophies or, alternatively, picking up their cue from journalists, assorted objects of their dislike. For some professors and teachers, ‘Anarchism’ is anything from Tolstoyism to the IRA, from drug-taking to militant-trade unionism, from nationalism to bolshevism, from the hippy cult to Islamic fundamentalism, from the punk scene to violent resistance to almost anything! This is by no means an exaggeration but a sign of academic illiteracy, to be distinguished from journalists who in the 1960s obeyed a directive to call anything Marxist-Leninist that involved action as ‘Anarchist’ and anything Anarchist as ‘nationalist’.
Inalienable Tenets of Anarchism
That Mankind is Born Free
Our rights are inalienable. Each person born on the world is heir to all the preceding generations. The whole world is ours by right of birth alone. Duties imposed as obligations or ideals, such as patriotism, duty to the State, worship of God, submission to higher classes or authorities, respect for inherited privileges, are lies.
If Mankind is Born Free, Slavery is Murder
Nobody is fit to rule anybody else. It is not alleged that Mankind is perfect, or that merely through his/her natural goodness (or lack of same) he/she should (or should not) be permitted to rule. Rule as such causes abuse. There are no superpeople nor privileged classes who are above ‘imperfect Mankind’ and are capable or entitled to rule the rest of us. Submission to slavery means surrender of life.
As Slavery is Murder, so Property is Theft
The fact that Mankind cannot enter into his/her natural inheritance means that part of it has been taken from him or her, either by means of force (old, legalised conquest or robbery) or fraud (persuasion that the State or its servants or an inherited property-owning class is entitled to privilege). All present systems of ownership mean that some are deprived of the fruits of their labour. It is true that, in a competitive society, only the possession of independent means enables one to be free of the economy (that is what Proudhon meant when, addressing himself to the self-employed artisan, he said “property is liberty”, which seems at first sight a contradiction with his dictum that it was theft). But the principle of ownership, in that which concerns the community, is at the bottom of inequity.
If Property is Theft, Government is Tyranny
If we accept the principle of a socialised society, and abolish hereditary privilege and dominant classes, the State becomes unnecessary. If the State is retained, unnecessary Government becomes tyranny since the governing body has no other way to maintain its hold. “Liberty without socialism is exploitation: socialism without liberty is tyranny” (Bakunin).
If Government is Tyranny, Anarchy is Liberty
Those who use the word “Anarchy” to mean disorder or misrule are not incorrect. If they regard Government as necessary, if they think we could not live without Whitehall directing our affairs, if they think politicians are essential to our well-being and that we could not behave socially without police, they are right in assuming that Anarchy means the opposite to what Government guarantees. But those who have the reverse opinion, and consider Government to be tyranny, are right too in considering Anarchy, no Government, to be liberty. If Government is the maintenance of privilege and exploitation and inefficiency of distribution, then Anarchy is order.
The Class Struggle
Revolutionary Anarchism is based on the class struggle, though it is true that even the best of Anarchist writers, to avoid Marxist phraseology, may express it differently. It does not take the mechanistic view of the class struggle taken by Marx and Engels that only the industrial proletariat can achieve socialism, and that the inevitable and scientifically-predictable victory of this class represents the final victory. On the contrary: had anarchism been victorious in any period before 1914, it would have been a triumph for the poorer peasants and artisans, rather than among the industrial proletariat amongst whom the concept of anarchy was not widespread.
As we have said, Marxists accuse the Anarchists of being petty bourgeois. Using the term in its modern sense, it makes Marx look ridiculous. Marx was distinguishing between the bourgeois (with full rights of citizens as employers and merchants) and the minor citizens — i.e. self-employed workers). When Marx referred to the Anarchists being ‘petty bourgeois’ who when they were forced by monopoly capitalism and the breakdown of a peasant-type society into industry, and being therefore ‘frustrated’ and turning to violence, because they did not accept the discipline taken for granted by the industrial proletariat, he was expressing something that was happening, especially after the breaking up of the independent Communes of Paris and Barcelona, and the breakdown of the capitalist economy, in his day. But, with the change of meaning, to think of today’s Anarchists as frustrated bowler-hatted bank managers turning to violence because they have been forced into industry is straining one’s sense of the ridiculous.
Marx thought the industrial proletariat was not used to thinking for itself — not having the leisure or independence of the self-employed — and was therefore capable ‘of itself’ of a ‘trade union mentality, needing the leadership of an ‘educated class’ coming from outside, and presumably not being frustrated. This in his day was thought of as the scholars as an elite, in later times the students.
Marx certainly did not foresee the present day, when the students as a frustrated class, having absorbed the Marxist teachings, are being forced into monotonous jobs or unemployment and create the New Left with its own assumptions and preoccupations, but are clearly not a productive class. Any class may be revolutionary in its day and time; only a productive class may be libertarian in nature, because it does not need to exploit. The industrialisation of most Western countries meant that the industrial proletariat replaced the old ‘petty bourgeois’ class and what is left of them became capitalist instead of working class, because it had to expand and therefore employ in order to survive. But recent tendencies in some Western countries are tending to the displacement of the working class and certainly the divorcing of them from their productive role. Mining, shipbuilding, spinning, manufacturing industries, and whole towns are closed down and people are forced to into service jobs like car-park attendants or supermarket assistants which are not productive and so carry no industrial muscle.
When the industrial proletariat developed, the Anarchist movement developed into anarcho-syndicalism, something coming from the workers themselves, contrary to the idea that they needed a leadership from outside the class or could not think beyond the wage struggle. Anarcho-syndicalism is the organisation at places of work both to carry on the present struggle and eventually to take over the places of work. It would thus be more effective than the orthodox trade-union movement and at the same time be able to bypass a State-run economy in place of capitalism.
Neither Anarchism nor Marxism has ever idealised the working class (except sometimes by way of poetic licence in propaganda!) — this was a feature of the Christian Socialists. Nor was it ever suggested that they could not be reactionary, In fact, deprivation of education makes the poorer class on the whole the more resistant to change. It would be trying the reader’s patience too much to reiterate all the ‘working class are not angels’ statements purporting to refute that the working class could not run their own places of work. Only in heaven, so I am informed, will it be necessary for angels to take over the functions of management!
Organisation and Anarchism
Those belonging to or coming from authoritarian parties find it hard to accept that one can organise without ‘some form’ of Government. Therefore they conclude, and it is a general argument against Anarchism, that ‘Anarchists do not believe in organisation’. But Government is of people, organisation is of things.
There is a belief that Anarchists ‘break up other people’s organisations but are unable to build their own’, often expressed where dangerous, hierarchical, or useless organisations dominate and prevent libertarian ones being created. It can well be admitted that particular people in particular places have failed in the task of building Anarchist organisations but in many parts of the world they do exist
An organisation may be democratic or dictatorial, it may be authoritarian or libertarian, and there are many libertarian organisations, not necessarily anarchist, which prove that all organisation need not be run from the top downwards.
Many trade unions, particularly if successful, in order to keep their movement disciplined and an integral part of capitalist society, become (if they do not start so) authoritarian; but how many employers’ organisations impose similar discipline? If they do, their affiliates would walk out if it did not suit their interests. They must come to free agreement because some have the means to resist intimidation. Even when they resort to fascism to keep the workers down, the employers retain their own independence and financial power; Nazism goes too far for smaller capitalists in that after having crushed the workers it also limits, or even negates, the independence of the class that put it in power.
Only the most revolutionary unions of the world have ever learned how to keep the form of organisation of mass labour movements on an informal basis, with a minimum of central administration, and with every decision referred back to the workers on the shop floor.
The Role of an Anarchist in an Authoritarian Society
“The only place for a free man in a slave society is in prison,” said Thoreau (but he only spent a night there). It is a stirring affirmation but not one to live by, however true it is. The revolutionary must be prepared for persecution and prosecution, but only the masochist would welcome it. It must always remain an individual action and decision as to how far one can be consistent in one’s rebellion: it is not something that can be laid down. Anarchists have pioneered or participated in many forms of social rebellion and reconstruction, such as libertarian education, the formation of labour movements, collectivisation, individual direct action in its many forms and so on.
When advocating anarcho-syndicalist tactics, it is because social changes for the whole of society can only come about through a change of the economy. Individual action may serve some liberatory process, it’s true. Individuals, for example, may retire to a country commune, surround themselves with like-minded people and ignore the world so long as it overlooks them. They might certainly meanwhile live in a free economy if they could overcome certain basic problems, but it would not bring about social change.
This is not to decry individual action, far from it. Whole nations can live under dictatorship and sacrifice whole peoples one by one, and nobody will do anything about it until one individual comes along and cuts off the head of the hydra, in other words, kills the tyrant. But genocide can take place before the individual with the courage, ability, and luck required comes along.
In such cases, we see waiting for mass action as queuing up for the gas chamber (it can be literally so). We do not think “the proletariat can do no wrong” and most of all; by submission, it can. But organisation is strength. We advocate mass action because it is effective and because the proletariat has in its hands the means to destroy the old economy and build anew. The Free Society will come about through workers’ control councils taking over the places of work and by conscious destruction of the authoritarian structure. They can be built within unionisation of the work-forces of the present time.
When advocating workers’ control for the places of work, we differ from those who are only advocating a share of management or imagine there can be an encroachment upon managerial function by the workers within capitalism. Self-management within a capitalist society is a sizeable reform, and is occasionally attainable when the work-force is in a particularly strong position, or more often when the work is sufficiently hazardous to defy outside inspection. That is all it is, however, and is not to be confused with syndicalism, except in the sense that the syndicalist thinks the future society should be self-controlled. We want no authority supreme to that of the workers, not even one of their delegates.
This probably means breaking industry down into small units, and we accept this. We reject ‘nationalisation’ = State control.
It should not be (but unfortunately is) necessary to explain that there are, of course, ways of personal liberation other than class action, and in some cases these may be necessary lest one starve. But none of these can at present help to change society. The self-employed artisan no longer plays an important part as in Proudhon’s day (and perhaps this will be revived with a new society). One can get satisfaction working on one’s own, one may have to do so by economic necessity, but the means of changing society rest with those who are working in the basic economy.
Trends over recent years show the importance of the self-employed artisan. As major industries are decimated by the ruling class because no longer necessary to capitalism, a means of integrating those working outside mainstream capitalism will increasingly need to be found if we are to achieve change. It was the necessity of finding this in a previous reversal of capitalist trends that led to the original formation of anarcho-syndicalism.
The Anarchist as Rebel
It is not unknown for the individual Anarchist to fight on alone, putting forward his or her ideas in a hostile environment. There were many examples in the past of Anarchists struggling on alone, sometimes only one in the country. It is less the case at the present time when there are usually many people calling themselves Anarchists, though perhaps only one or two in a locality who really are so, and not just adopting the label to describe rebellion when young.
Anarchists in such circumstances may fight alone for the principle of Anarchism, but usually participate in other struggles, such as anti-militarism, anti-imperialism, anti-nationalism or solely within the content of the class struggle or they may form organisations of their own.
It is no part of the case for Anarchism to say that the profession of its ideas changes peoples’ character; or that the movement invites itself to be judged on anyone who happened to be around at any one time. Organisations they create may become reformist or authoritarian; people themselves may become corrupted by money or power. All we can say is that ultimately such corruption normally leads them to drop the name ‘Anarchist’, as standing in their way. If ever the term became ‘respectable’, no doubt we would have to choose a fresh one, equally connotative of libertarian rebellion — at present it can still stand as descriptive though increasingly misused.
In all organisations, personalities play a part and it may be that in different countries different schisms may occur. Some say that there are different types of Anarchism. Syndicalism, Communism, individualism, pacifism, have all been cited as such. This is not so. If one wishes to cause a schism, purely on personal reasons or because one wishes to become more quietist or reformist, it is no doubt convenient to pick a name as a ‘banner’. But in reality there are not different forms of Anarchism. Anarchist-Communism, in any definition (usually that of Kropotkin), means a method of socialism without Government, not a different style of anarchism. An alternative idea, called Anarchist-Collectivism, once favoured by Spanish Anarchists, was found in practice to be exactly the same. If one is going to have no rule from above, one cannot lay down a precise economic plan for the future, and Communism and collectivisation controlled from below upwards proved to be no different from each other, or from syndicalism, a permanent means of struggle toward the same goal.
Communism, in the sense used by Anarchists, is a society based on the community. Collectivism is a division of the commune into economic units. Unless the commune is very small — based upon the village — it has to be divided into smaller units, collectives, so that all can participate and not just their elected representatives. Otherwise it would merely be industrial democracy. While free Communism is an aim, syndicalism is a method of struggle. It is the union of workers within the industrial system attempting to transform it into a free Communistic society.
State Communism is not an alternative Communism to free Communism, but its opposite. It is the substitution of the State or the Party for the capitalist class. Communism is not necessarily Anarchist, even if it is not State Communism but the genuine authoritarian form of Communism (total State control without having degenerated into absolute power from above, or even governmental dominated socialisation). Syndicalism is not necessarily revolutionary and even revolutionary syndicalism (the idea that workers can seize places of work through factory organisation) need not be libertarian, as it can go hand-in-hand with the idea of a political party exercising political control. This is why we use the mouthful: anarcho-syndicalism. Workers control of production, community control from below, no Government from above.
Is pacifism a trend within Anarchism? Though phoney Anarchism contains a large streak of pacifism, being militant liberalism and renouncing any form of positive action for Anarchism, pacifism (implying extreme nonviolence, and not just anti-militarism) is authoritarian. The cult of extreme nonviolence always implies an elite, the Satyagrahi of Gandhi, for instance, who keeps everyone else in check either by force or by moral persuasion. The general history of the orthodox pacifist movements is that they attempt to dilute a revolutionary upsurge but come down on the side of force either in an imperialist war or by condoning aggressive actions by governments they support.
Both India and Israel were once the realisation of the pacifist ideals; the atom bomb was largely developed and created by nonviolent pacifists and by League of Nations enthusiasts; the Quakers as peace-loving citizens but commercial tyrants and colonialists are notorious. In recent times, many who rejected Anarchist actions of the Spanish Resistance (though claiming to be “nonviolent Anarchists”) had no difficulty late in supporting far more “violent” actions of different nationalist movements.
It is true to say that there are Anarchists who consider pacifism compatible with Anarchism in the sense that they advocate the use of non-violent methods though usually nowadays advocating this on the grounds of expediency or tactics rather than principle. But this should not be confused with the so-called “Tolstoyan Anarchism” (neither Tolstoyan or Anarchist). Tolstoy considered the Anarchists were right in everything but that they believed in revolution to achieve it. His idea of social change was “within one” (which is to say in the sky). He did not advocate nonviolent revolution, he urged nonresistance as a way of life compatible with Christian teaching though not practised as such.
One has to say also that this refers to pacifism in the Anglo-American sense, somewhat worse in Great Britain where the concept of legalised conscientious objection led to a dialogue between pacifism and the State. In countries where objection to military service remained a totally illegal act, the concept of pacifism is not necessarily extreme nonviolence.
Immediate Aims of the Anarchist
A “reformist” is not someone who brings about reforms (usually they do not, they divert attention to political manoeuvring): it is someone who can see no further than amelioration of certain parts of the system. It is necessary to agitate for the abolition of certain laws or for the immediate reform of some, but to idealise the agitation for reforms, or even the interests in reform of minorities or even whole communities, is reformist. This reformism has permeated the whole of what is now called the left wing. It creates new industries in the interests of aspiring bureaucrats allegedly guarding over minority interests, preventing people in those minorities from acting on their own behalf. This is noticeable even in women’s struggles which the left marginalises as if it were a minority issue.
Sometimes laws are more harmful than the offences they legislate against. No law is worth passing even to hope which are socially beneficial on the surface, since they are sure to be interpreted wrongly and are often used to bolster the private opinion of judges who carry them out. The old British custom of sentencing poorer classes to death for minor thefts above a small pecuniary value was not abolished by Parliament nor by the judges, but by the final refusal of juries to admit when forced to a guilty verdict that the goods were above that value.
The Anarchists can as individuals or in groups press for reforms but as Anarchists they seek to change minds and attitudes, not to pass laws. When minds are changed, laws become obsolete and, sooner or later, law enforcers are unable to operate them. Prohibition in America, the Poll Tax in Britain, are instances. At that point the law has to adapt itself to public opinion.
The Witchcraft Act remained on the statute books until some 40 years ago and it was enforced right up to the time of its abolition though the Public Prosecutor only dared to use a few of its clauses for fear of ridicule. It was abolished for political reasons but the equally ridiculous Blasphemy Act was retained, being unquestioned by Parliament until the agitation by Muslims that it was clearly unfair that one could be fined for offending Christianity while one could not be executed for offending Islam.
The ‘1381’ law was useful for squatters to persuade people they could occupy neglected buildings without offence, the odd thing being that the law did not exist. The myth was enough provided people believed in it.
One has to carry on a resistance to any and every form of tyranny. When governments use their privileges threatened, they drop the pretence of democracy and benevolence which most politicians prefer. Anarchists are forced to become what politicians describe them as: ‘agents of disorder’, though there is a lot more to Anarchism to that, and all ‘agents of disorder’ are not necessarily Anarchists.
A Marxist-Leninist would say, “Anarchists are able to bring about disorder but cannot seize power. Hence they are unable to make take advantage of the situations they create, and the bourgeoisie, regrouping its strength, turns to fascism”.
A Tory would say that Marxist-Leninists are Anarchists “because they wish to create Anarchy to create the conditions in which they would seize power”. Both are absurdities. Anarchists can, of course, “seize power” no less than anyone just as a teetotaler can get blind drunk, but they would hardly continue to merit the name. Anarchists in power would not necessarily be any better or worse than anyone else, and they might even be as bad as Communists or fascists. There is no limit of degradation to which power cannot bring anyone even with the loftiest principles. We would hope that being unprepared for power, they would be ineffective. Their task is not to “seize power” (those who use this term show that they seek personal power for themselves) but to abolish the bases of power. Power to all means power to nobody in particular.
If one leaves the wild beast of State power partially wounded, it becomes more ferocious than ever, a raging wild beast that will destroy or be destroyed. This is why Anarchists form organisations to bring about revolutionary change. The nature of Anarchism as an individualistic creed in the true sense has often caused many to say such organisations might well be left to ‘spontaneity’, ‘voluntary will’ and so on — in other words, there can be no organisation (except for propaganda only) until the entire community forms its own organisations. This is a recipe for a sort of armchair Anarchism which never gets off the ground, but at the same time with a point that cannot be ignored — until the whole community has control of its own organisations, such bodies cannot and should not take over the social and economic means of life.
It is shown by events that unity of resistance is needed against repression, that there must be united forms of action. Even when workers’ councils are formed, there may be representatives on them from political factions, united outside on party lines and able to put forward a united front within such councils and thus to dominate and ultimately destroy them. That is why we need an organised movement to destroy such efforts at totalitarianism. In some cases one may need the ultimate sanction of acts of individual terrorism to be used against leadership from within quite as much as that imposed from above. This form of specific terrorism has nothing in common with nationalist terrorism, which by its nature is as indiscriminate as State terrorism, for all that it is judged in a far harsher light. Anarchist terrorism is against individual despots, ruling or endeavouring to rule. Nationalist terrorism is a form of war against peoples. State terrorism is the abuse of power.
The Marxist-Leninists in time of revolution rely upon the formation of a Red Army. Under the control of one party, the “Red” Army is the old army under a red flag. We have seen many times how this can become a major instrument of repression, just as a nationalist army under a new flag can also become one, sometimes even before it attains power.
The very formation of an army to supersede workers’ militias will destroy the Revolution (Spain 1936). Che Guevara introduced a new romantic ideas of the Red Army as the advance guard of a peasants army — combining the spontaneity of a Makhnovista (Ukraine 1917) and Zapatista/Magonista (Mexican-Anarchistic) peasant army with the disciplined ideas of Party intellectuals. In such cases, after the initial enthusiasm carries through to victory, the disciplined leadership takes over; if it fails, the leaders run off elsewhere.
The self-defence notions of anarcho-syndicalists are that workers use arms in their own defence against the enemy at hand, and that the democratic notion of workers’ militias prevails. While there may be technical leadership, instruction and duties such as are at present in the hands of noncommissioned officers up to the rank of sergeant, there should be no officers whose job is to command, or lower-ranking NCOs to transmit the chain of command.
The idea of an armed people is derided by many so-called military and political experts, but only is used by workers in their own interests. If smaller nations use it successfully, they admit that a citizens’ army — that is to say, a nonprofessional one that can hang up its rifles and go back to work, coming out when called upon — is possible provided only that, as in the case of (say) Israel or South Africa, they obey nationalistic and aggressive policies from above. Providing they don’t maintain the force in international-class interests, the “experts” are prepared to admit the efficiency of such an army remaining democratically controlled within its own ranks.
How Will a Revolution Come About?
We do not know. When a revolutionary situation presents itself — as it did with the occupation of factories in France, 1936 and 1968; as it did in Spain, 1936 with the fascist uprising; or with the breakdown of the Russian Armies, 1917; or in many other times and places; we are ready for it or we are not (and usually not). Many times the workers are partially ready and leave the “wounded wild animal” of Statism fiercer than ever. It may be purely individual action that sets off the spark. But only if, at that period, there is a conscious movement towards a Free Society that throws off the shackles of the past, will that situation become a social revolution. The problem today that faces us is that half the world is prepared to rise almost at any opportune time, but have no military power to resist repression and no industrial muscle to sustain it. The other half of the world has such might, but no real desire to rise, being either bought off by capitalism or succumbing to persuasion.
Bringing About the New Society
What Constitutes an Authoritarian Society?
Exploitation — Manipulation — Suppression. The organs of repression consist of many arms of the State:
The Apparatus of Government: The legislature, the judicature, the monarchy, the Civil Service, the Armed Forces, the Police etc.
The Apparatus of Persuasion: The educational system, the media, including TV, radio and the press, the Church, and even forms of apparent dissent that in reality condition us to accept the present system — the parliamentary Opposition is the most obvious, but many other alternatives to the accepted system too, e.g., revolution presented as merely one in lifestyle or musical preference, academic teaching of Marxist-Leninism etc.
The Apparatus of Exploitation: The monetary system; financial control; the Banks; the Stock Exchange; individual, collective, and State employers; land ownership. Under capitalism there is no escaping this.
Most political reformers have some part of the unfree system they wish to abolish Republicans would abolish the monarchy, Secularists would abolish or disestablish the Church, Socialists would (or used to) wish to abolish the apparatus of exploitation; pacifists would abolish the Army. Anarchism is unique in wishing to abolish all. The only true definition of an Anarchist is one who wishes to believes it desirable to abolish all; who believe it possible to abolish all, the sooner the better; and who works to bring such abolition about.
There are many, usually on the left, who think it desirable but impossible, many on the right who think it only too probable but undesirable. Others may be sympathetic to Anarchism as both desirable and possible but refrain from action in its favour. To borrow a phrase from another part of the forest, they may be fellow travelers of Anarchism.
The Police are the cornerstone of the State (though sometimes, in extreme cases, the Government of the day needs to use the armed forces in lieu of, or in addition to the police — in some countries this has led to replacement or control of the Government by the army so long as the officers are tightly in control).
Only Anarchism believes in abolition of the Police, and this is the most hotly-disputed argument of Anarchism. Yet the police force as we know it is a comparatively modern phenomenon, fiercely resisted when introduced for reasons which have since been proved up to the hilt, such as the ability of the Police to introduce or bolster up a dictatorship, known indeed as a police state. Without control of the Police, debates at Westminster become as sterile of result as debates in the West Kensington Debating Society (and probably less interesting).
With German money, supplied by Helphand-Parvus, Lenin was able to return to Russia and pay Lettish mercenaries to act as Police. He was the only politician in a position to do so and in this way Bolshevik success was achieved. The Nazis in their turn created murder gangs that roamed the streets, which were tacitly tolerated by the Republican Police, but their victory came when they controlled the Police by legal means.
Can One Do Without the State?
It seems to be generally agreed that we can do without some organs of the State: can we do without them all, altogether? Some are admittedly useless, some decorative, some have impossible intentions, others are necessary for class rule, some may well be useful and carry out functions essential to any society.
One cannot do the work of another. If the monarchy has no Army it cannot save you from foreign invasion any more than the police will get you into heaven if you do not have a Church! Any commonsense codification of conduct would be better than the farrago of laws we have at present, which occupy both the lawyers and politicians, the one interpreting the apparent desires of the other.
It is true that the Government can and sometimes does take over certain necessary social functions, as do every organ of the State however repressive. The railways were not always run by the State but belonged to capitalists, and could equally in a future society belong to the workers. It would be foolish to say that if mines belonged to the State, that proves the State is necessary, or we would have no coal without it. The Army is often given socially necessary jobs, such as flood or earthquake relief; it is sometimes used as a scab labour force, such as in strikes; it is sometimes used as a police force. This is because the State does not want the breakup of a society that supports it.
Even the police at times fulfill some necessary functions — one goes to the police station to find lost dogs simply because it happens to be there and has taken over that function. It does not follow that we should never find lost dogs if there were no Police, and that we need to be clubbed over the head in times of social unrest so that old ladies can need not lose their dogs. For insurance purposes, all car owners report their lost or stolen cars to the Police, but it does not mean that the police force as such is indispensable.
Just as insurance companies would find some way of seeing they could not pay out on fraudulent claims if there were no police force, society would see to it that it could protect itself. Unfortunately, having a police force atrophies the ability of society to defend itself. People have lost all sense of social organisation and control. They can be put in terror by a few kids running wild, however young. The only reaction is to run to the Police, and the Police cannot cope.
There was an old superstition that if the Church excommunicated a country, it was under a terrible disaster. One could not be married, buried, leave property, do business in safety, be educated, be tended while sick, in a country which was excommunicated. The superstition was not an idle one, so long as people believed in the Church. If the country was banned from the communion of believers, the hospitals (run by the Church) were closed; there could be no trust in business (the clerics administered oaths and without them no promises need be kept); no education (they ran the schools); children could indeed be begotten (no way of preventing that by the Church!), but not christened, and were therefore barred from the community of believers and under a threat, as they thought, of eternal damnation, while unmarried parents could not leave property to their “illegitimate” children. The physical reality of Hell was not necessary to make excommunication effective. We are wiser now. But one superstition has been replaced by another. It has been transferred to belief in the State. If we were to reject Government there would be no education (for Government, national or local, controls the schools — with obvious exceptions), no hospitals (ditto), nobody could carry one working because the Government regulates its conduct, and so on. The truth all the time has been that not the Church and not the State but we the People have worked for everything we’ve got, and if we have not done so they have not provided for us. Even the privileged have been maintained by us not them.
The Money Myth
With the State myth comes a second myth — the money myth. The value of money is dependent on the strength of the State. When Governments collapse, their money is worthless. For years American crooks travelled Europe offering to change Confederate dollars, worth nothing since the Southern States had lost the Civil War, presenting them to unsuspecting Europeans as valid U.S. dollars — until they became collectors’ pieces and were worth more than several U.S. dollars! At that point the Federal Government utilised the original printing plants to publish Confederate dollars and gave them away with bubble-gum, lest their own currency became devalued.
When the Kaiser’s Germany collapsed, Imperial marks were useless. When the Spanish Republic was defeated, the banks simply canceled the value of its money. The story is endless. Yet according to a legend many still believe, the wealth of the country is to be found at Waterlow’s printing works. As the notes roll off the press, so our wealth is created, and if this ceased we should be impoverished! The banks have come up with an alternative in printing their own credit cards. Another alternative myth, now dated, was that the money printed had to correspond with a quantity of closely-guarded gold buried in a mysterious vault, after having been dug up under tight security from mines thousands of miles away. However, Governments have long since defaulted on the premises behind this myth (though they still continue the ritual). The newer governmental myth is that if too many notes are printed we shall have inflation which will make us all poor, so to prevent this we must be prepared to endure conditions of stringency and poverty, lose jobs and homes, or in other words become poor.
During the war, rationing of food and clothes meant that what counted was coupons, by which it was hoped to ensure there were fair shares of what was available. As the money system continued, a black market in commodities was inevitable, but rationing gave an idea of what State Socialism — without money — would be like. If there were too many coupons printed there would be no point in the scheme. Money is another form of rationing, by which one set of people get more than another. Wage struggles are fights to get a bigger slice of the cake. The wealthy are those who have first access to slicing the cake. But neither money nor coupons make any difference to the size of the cake, they are simply means of dealing with its distribution, whether fairly — or more likely — unfairly. So essential is money to the obtaining of goods in a State society, it sounds humorous to say money is a myth — “I don’t care if it’s mythical, give me more” — but myth it is.
Many worthy people believe if Lady X did not spend her money on a yacht, that money could somehow be transformed into an x-ray apparatus for the hospital. They do not understand, it would seem, that yacht builders cannot produce x-ray machines. Others think that those on National Assistance are supported by those at work — yet the margin of unemployment is essential to the State as a pitfall to make the incentives to work stick. Others believe there is a relation between their wages going up and the wages received by other people going down. In a competitive society, however, one gets what one is able to command.
The Myth of Taxation
There is a patent absurdity in supposing that those who work and produce are helped by those who profit from the system and do nothing. It is equally absurd to suppose that the rich help the poor by providing work or charity. As Brendan Behan commented to someone who pointed out how much the Guinness family had done for the poor people of Dublin — “It’s nothing compared to what the poor people of Dublin have done for the Guinness family”. Taxation perpetuates the myth that those with more money help those with less. Taxation grabs money out of the pockets of the less well-off even before they have a chance to look at it. The rich dress up their accounts by means of professional advisors. But aside from that, money does not create wealth, it is muscle, brain, and natural resources that do. Money is used to restrict the application of human endeavour. It is possible to print money, or arrange credit, when it is in the interests of money manipulators to do so. When they wish to go into recession, they do so by withdrawing money and credit. Recession is not a natural disaster like famine, drought, floods, or earthquakes though it is presented as such.
The Effect of Immigration
The large scale employer looking at greater profitability or the way to cut costs has several options open, the easiest and laziest being to cut wages. If the workers are well-organised they can resist this so there are two options open to the major capitalist. Either take the factories to where the cheap labour is or take the cheap labour to where the factories are. The first option entails great pollution, as a rule — not that they ever care about that — and in some cases they have to go into areas of political instability. It is cheaper to move the cheap labour.
Having thus encouraged immigration, wearing the financial hat as it were, the capitalist in the capacity of a right-wing politician, dons the political hat and denounces immigration. This has the advantage of setting worker against worker, fuelled by religious and/or racial antipathies which can persist for generations, and have the added bonus of inducing the worker to support the right wing electorally. It does the capitalist no harm to have a work force hated by those who surround them, or in fear of deportation if they step out of line. Nor does it harm the capitalist, in a political context, to have issues such as immigration replace the basic issue of the wage and monetary system. It only becomes harmful from that point of view when a fascist force such as Hitler’s gains such armed might that it can ignore the wishes of the capitalists which gave them that power and strives for its own superiority.
The Abolition of the Wage and Monetary Systems
“Socialism” has become so diffused a term today that it is used of almost any reformist or indeed positively counter-revolutionary movement that wishes to use the term and covers a multitude of ideas from liberalism to tyranny, but in reality the essentials of any socialistic theory are the abolition of the wage and monetary systems. This is because a genuine socialistic movement should be of the working class and intended for its own emancipation from wage slavery. The wage and monetary systems are the chains of that slavery that need to be broken.
Some modified form of wage or some means of exchange might be consistent with a free communistic society, especially among a post-revolutionary society accustomed to some form of labour-rewarding assessment, but the present form of monetary system is one in which money is not a servant (a means of exchange) but a boss in its own right. Wages are a means of denoting the position in society’s pecking order which a person is deemed to hold. It is not even fair as regards the assessment it makes. Such systems must be swept aside.
At present, as indicated above, the Government, or the effective controller which may in some cases be over the Government (the banks, for instance) assess the national wealth. A corresponding number of bank notes are printed, coin is struck, credits are granted to financial houses. According to the degree of efficiency or inefficiency of a current Government (which is the stuff of day-to-day press political sloganeering and need not concern us) the assessment, or budget may be correct or incorrect. According to his or her assessment, the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be “generous” or “niggardly” in sharing out the national “cake” and apportioning our slices. But in reality salaries and wages are determined by social convention, tradition, Government patronage, economic competition, hereditary power, trade union bargaining, individual enterprise and wildcat strikes. According to their effectiveness, so is the “slice of cake” each receives. Those unable to use any of the pressures are simply left out of the reckoning and must be content with what is given them in order solely to survive. The “cake” is the same whatever the Government does about it.
Is Anarchism Compatible with Capitalism?
It is only possible to conceive of Anarchism in a form in which it is free, communistic, and offering no economic necessity for repression or countering it. Common sense shows that any capitalist society might dispense with a “State” (in the American sense of the word) but it could not dispense with organised Government, or a privatised form of it, if there were people amassing money and others working to amass it for them. The philosophy of “anarcho-capitalism” dreamed up by the “libertarian” New Right, has nothing to do with Anarchism as known by the Anarchist movement proper. It is a lie that covers an unpleasant reality in its way — such as National Socialism does in another. Patently unbridled capitalism, not even hampered by a reformist State, which has to put some limits on exploitation to prevent violent clashes in society, needs some force at its disposal to maintain class privileges, either from the State itself or from private Armies. What they believe in is in fact a limited State — that is, one in which the State has one function, to protect the ruling class, does not interfere with exploitation, and comes as cheap as possible for the ruling class. The idea also serves another purpose beyond its fulfillment — a moral justification for bourgeois consciences in avoiding taxes without feeling guilty about it — just as pacifism sometimes serves as an excuse for bourgeois consciences in avoiding danger without feeling guilty.
The history of collective control in a capitalist society is a pretty dismal one. There have been many attempts to bypass the system by forming “communities” which because they are less than the whole, real community, are bound in the end not to prosper. Cooperative societies no less than small businesses rarely withstand the pressure of monopoly capitalism. Collective farms — collective enterprises at which one works at less than the normal wage to for the sake of independence — like craft businesses, never quite get off the ground and it always comes down to the monopoly market. All could flourish if the system were free, but it is not.
Nevertheless, one can note that many communal products are equally available to all, either on payment of a fixed sum, or free. The highways are free — neither State nor capitalism has got round (yet) to making all roads toll roads to enter which one must pay (but they’ve got round to it on main motorways on the Continent). It would probably make no economic difference if the underground railway was also free, bearing in mind the cost of ticket collecting. Water used to be free — even when water rates came in one could draw as much as one liked from the tap. Now there are water meters, as if we were living in the Sahara where water has long been rationed. So far they have not got round to making us pay for air.
Anarchism presupposes that all these arguments based on economics are bunkum. Services which come naturally or are produced by the people should belong to the people.
Need There be a Transitional Society?
A transitional society to Anarchism isn’t necessary. The idea touted by Leninists was that the State would fade away after years of the harshest dictatorship — originally claimed to be only as much as was necessary to save the infant Soviet Republic but which lasted for seventy years until the people got fed up with it. All that faded away was people rash enough to want to go forward to free socialism. The prospect of ‘withering away of the State’ after years of strengthening it is illogical. Leninists justify this by saying the State is only that part of the State apparatus which favours the capitalist class by suppressing the working class. This might fade away (though it did not do so in the years of State Communism). What cannot fade away is the rest of the State apparatus, unless the State is destroyed root and branch.
The fact that a transitional society to Anarchism isn’t necessary does not necessarily mean there will not be one. Who can say? After all, changing attitudes to such matters as racial domination, sexual discrimination, religious orientation, conformity, and so on might be part of a transition to a Free Society already existing. There might be an occupation of the places of work without a conscious revolution, which in itself would be a transitional period.
One could even visualise a curious transitional period in which part of society was evolving to a new system and part was sticking to the old — with workers’ control coexisting with private capitalism in the market the way rigid old-time family styles coexist with free relationships in the same street. But clearly in the long run one or the other system would have to go. Capitalism could not exist if people could be free to choose the way they work without being compelled by conscription or necessity — therefore it would either need to reinforce its authority (possibly by fascist gangs, as during the occupation of the factories in Italy) or go under (which is the choice the Italian capitalists as a while, even though many had democratic viewpoints, were forced to take).
A Free Society
A society cannot be free unless not only are there no governmental restraints, but the essentials of life are free in that sense too.
It is true that if some products were in short supply, however free the society, access to them would have to be rationed by some means. It could be by ‘labour-value’ cards, by ordinary ‘fair rationing’, it might imply retention of a different monetary system (but not money as an ends in itself, in which money has a value beyond that of exchanging goods).
We cannot lay down the economics for a Free Society which by its nature is free to reject or accept anything it fancies. The authoritarian economist can do so (“so long as I, or my party, is in power, we will do this or that”).
An anarchist society is by definition a Free Society, but a Free Society is not necessarily Anarchist. It might fall short in several respects. Some failings might seriously limit its desirability. For instance, a Revolution carried out by men in a male-dominated society, might perpetuate sex discrimination, which would limit freedom and undermine the Revolution by leaving it possible for aggressive attitudes to be fostered. The liberal illusion that repressive forces must be tolerated which will ultimately wipe out all freedom — lest the right to dissent be imperilled — could well destroy the revolution.
A Free Society head to rid itself or repressive institutions and some might long last longer than others. The Church is one instance — yet religious beliefs, which continue under the most repressive and brutal dictatorships, could surely continue under No Government. Only those creeds which have not had their claws cut and demand suppression of other religions or unbelief, forced conversions or marriages, censorship by themselves and obedience to their own laws from those not wishing to do so, have anything to fear from an Anarchist Revolution.
The Employers Do Not Give Work
It is Primitive basic socialist thinking, to which Anarchism subscribes, that work is not something that is given by the employer. The employer may have the legal right to distribute work, but the wealth of a country is due to the workers and to natural resources, not to an employer or a State. They have the chance of preventing wealth being created.
It is the Anarchist case that fluctuations of the money market, inflation, recesssion, unemployment, as well as war, are artificially created and are not natural disasters like flood, famine, earthquake, drought — and as one knows nowadays, even some of these are created by abuse of natural resources.
It may be that in some technological society of the future, run by the State, in a sort of boss utopia, the working class will be displaced as a productive class. We see signs of that even today as large part of the economy are closed down as unprofitable and people uprooted. There is a technology, still in its infancy but making great strides, which will reduce us, as a productive class, to turners of switches and openers of the scientists’ doors; to secretaries and receptionists; to janitors and clerks; to domestic servants of the rich. Anarcho-syndicalsts think such a society must be resisted. They do not worship work as a fetish in itself but fight dehumanisation and alienation. In this they differ from some other Anarchists who think work has no purpose and who become state-dependent by conviction.
Objections to Anarchism
Whenever Anarchists attack present-day society, they touch on the fears and prejudices of average people who know that society is a jungle today and cannot visualise life without the safeguards needed in the jungle. When they hear of Anarchism they bring forward objections which are, in fact, criticisms of the present system they do not otherwise admit but think of as objections to a Free Society of the future.
They fear what is known in the Statist language as a “state of Anarchy” — they think murder, rape, robbery, violent attack would ensue if there were no Government to prevent it. And yet we all know that Government cannot, certainly does not., prevent it. One has only to pick up the papers to learn that it flourishes though Government is strong, and also where Government is weak, and more so perhaps where there are numerous bodies competing as to which is the Government and Government is said to have broken down. “A state of Anarchy” nowhere exists — in the sense there a society where there is no Government and not just a weak or divided Government.
The most a functioning Government can do is not prevention but punishment — when it finds out, sometimes wrongly or not at all — who the culprits are, its own methods of repressive action can cause far more damage than the original crimes — the “cure” is worse than the disease.
“What would you do without a police force?” Society would never tolerate murder, whether it had a police force or not. The institutionalisation of a body to look after crime means that it not only “looks after” crime and nourishes crime, but that the rest of society is absolved from doing so. The reasoning is that a murder next door is the State’s business, not mine! Responsibility for one’s neighbour is reduced in an authoritarian society, in which the State is solely responsible for our behaviour.
“Who will do the dirty work?”. This is a question society, not just the apologist for Anarchism, has to ask itself. There are dirty jobs which are socially unacceptable and poorly paid, so that nobody wants to do them. People have therefore been enslaved to do them, or there is competition in a market economy and the jobs become better paid (and therefore socially acceptable), or there is conscription for such jobs, whether by political direction or the pressures of unemployment. Sometimes the capitalist introduces immigration in the hope of cheap labour, thus putting off the problem for a generation or two. Or it can be that jobs don’t get done and, say, the streets aren’t swept anymore and so we get deluged with water shooting out from cars driven by graduate psychologists and step gingerly past refuse, clutching our theses on sociology.
What the State does in such circumstances seems to depend on political factors. What an Anarchist society would do could only be foretold by a clairvoyant. It is plain what it could not do — use force, since it would lack repressive machinery or the means of economic coercion. The question implies a criticism of prosperity and freedom, which bring problems in their train. Are we to reject prosperity and freedom for that reason?
“If the Anarchists do not seize power, and have superseded other forms of socialism that would, they objectively make way for fascism”. This allegation presupposes the dilution of anarchism with pacifism, for there is always, in any circumstances, one sure way of avoiding dictatorship, whether from the right, left, centre or within one’s own ranks, and that is by personal removal of the dictator. This only becomes a symbolic gesture when the dictator is in power with all the machinery of command-and-obey at the disposal of the head of State.
Anyone will seize power if given the opportunity. Anarchists do not claim to be a privileged elite and cannot truthfully assert they would be better able to resist the temptations of power, or to wield it more successfully, than anyone else.
Do Anarchists believe in leadership? They always deny they do, but undoubtedly many Anarchists have emerged as leaders, sometimes even of armies (like Buenaventura Durruti and Nestor Makhno) or of ideas, or of organisations. In any grouping some people do naturally “give a lead”, but this should not mean they are a class apart. What they always reject is responsibility for leadership. That means their supporters become blind followers and the leadership not one of example or originality but of unthinking acceptance.
Musical geniuses, artists, scientists can be of an “elite” without being elitist — there is no reason why excelling in certain spheres should make one better entitled to the world’s goods or more worthy of consideration in matters in which one does not have specialised consideration (the correspondence between Freud and Einstein in which they discuss whether war can be prevented is a classic example of futility — Einstein looking to Freud for a psychological lead in pacifism and Freud explaining it is in the nature of Man. In the end, scientists who were pacifists, or believers in the League of Nations enthusiasts, or — like Einstein — both, invented the atom bomb).
In the same way, people can work in an office without being bureaucrats: a bureaucrat is a person whose power is derived from the office they hold. Holding an office in an organisation can bring supreme power by being at the head of a chain of command-and-obey (as it did in the case of Joseph Stalin). In slang it is a term flung at anyone who happens to be efficient, which is far from being the same thing. v In the same way, no real Anarchist — as distinct from someone pretending to be or remain one — would agree to be part of an institutionalised leadership. Neither would an Anarchist wait for a lead, but give one. That is the mark of being an Anarchist, not a formal declaration of being one. What above all is the curse of leadership is not the curse of leadership, but agreement to being led blindly — not the faults of the shepherd but the meekness of the sheep. What would the crimes of Hitler have amounted to, had he had to carry them out by himself?
Can Public Opinion Itself be Authoritarian?
Yes. Even in a Free Society? Certainly. But this is not an argument against a Free Society, it is a reason why public opinion should not be molded by an outside force. There might well be a society controlled economically by the workers where prejudice against some minorities, or traditional family attitudes, or rules laid down by religions rooted in the past, might still exist. The society would be free in one respect only — economically.
But without any means of codifying prejudices; no repressive machinery against nonconformists; above all, no means of repression by persuasion when the media is controlled from above; public opinion can become superior to its prejudices. The majority is not automatically right. The manipulation of the idea of a majority is part of the Government technique.
One last objection is made against Anarchism, usually by those about to “come over” — Why disunity in the ranks of those who take up a similar position on many stands? Why cannot we be all one libertarian left? Why any divisions at all?
If we create councils of action — workers’ industrial proto-unions — as we intend to do given the chance and agreement of workers, even if as a first step we form social groups based upon industrial activity or support, obviously we are going to be united to others not only of the libertarian left, or indeed (in the case of workers’ councils) with people of reformist, reactionary, or authoritarian points of view. We mix with them in everyday life anyway. The expression of Anarchist views and attitudes does not make us hermits. Anarchist groups need to keep alive their identity, but only a party machine would make them into walls against meeting others outside.
It is certainly the curse of the present day that pseudo-Anarchists, whether liberal or “lifestylist”, create their own “ghettos” within a “left”, which has become itself a ghetto, in which acceptance of a package deal of ideas is obligatory. This endemic isolation, in the name of youth, sex, race, nationality, alternative culture, or whatever, has nothing to do with Anarchism though it has been wished on it by journalistic propaganda pressure.
The Marxist Criticism of Anarchism
The Marxist criticism of Anarchism is the first with which most people with a serious interest in politics come in contact. There follows from it the Marxist-Leninist critique and the Social-Democratic objections. vMarxist-Leninists, faced with Anarchism, find that by its nature it undermines all the suppositions basic to Marxism. Marxism was held out to be the basic working-class philosophy (a belief which has utterly ruined the working-class movement everywhere). It holds in theory that the industrial proletariat cannot owe its emancipation to anyone but themselves alone, It is hard to go back on that and say that the working class is not yet ready to dispense with authority placed over it by someone outside the class.
Marxism normally tries to refrain from criticising Anarchism as such — unless driven to doing so, when it exposes its own authoritarianism ( “how can the workers run the railways, for instance, without direction — that is to say, without authority?”) and concentrates its attack not on Anarchism, but on Anarchists. This is based on a double standard: Anarchists are held responsible for the thought and actions of all persons, live or dead, calling themselves Anarchists, even only temporarily, or persons referred to as Anarchists by others, even if they disagree, or whose actions could be held to be Anarchistic by non-Anarchists. even on a faulty premise, or are referred to by others as Anarchists. Marxists take responsibility for Marxists holding their particular party card at the time.
Marxism has — whether one agrees with it or not — a valid criticism of the Anarchists in asking how one can (now) dispense with political action — or whether one should throw away so vital a weapon. But this criticism varies between the schools of Marxism, since some have used it to justify complete participation in the whole capitalist power structure, while others talk vaguely only of “using Parliament as a platform”. Lenin recognised the shortcomings of Marxism in this respect and insisted that the anarchist workers could not be criticised for rejecting so Philistine a Marxism that it used political participation for its own sake and expected the capitalist state to let itself be voted out of existence peacefully. He therefore concentrated on another aspect, which Marx pioneered, viz. criticism of particular Anarchists, and this has dominated all Leninist thinking ever since.
Because of the lack of any other criticism of the Anarchists, Leninists — especially Trotskyists — to this day use the personal criticism method. But as Lenin selected only a few well-known personalities who for a few years fell short of the ideas they preached, the latter-day Leninists have to hold that all Anarchists are responsible for everyone who calls himself or herself an Anarchist — or even, such as the Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries in Russia, were only called such (if indeed so) by others.
This wrinkle in Leninism has produced another criticism of Anarchism (usually confined to Trots and Maoists); Anarchists are responsible not only for all referred to as Anarchists, but for all workers influenced by Anarchist ideas. The C.N.T. is always quoted here, but significantly its whole history before and after the civil war is never mentioned, solely the period of participation in the Government. For this, the Anarchists must for ever accept responsibility! But the Trots may back the reformist union U.G.T. without accepting any period in its entire history. In all countries (if workers), they presumably join or (if students) accept the reformist trade unions. That is all right. But a revolutionary trade union must for ever be condemned for any one deviation. Moreover, if broken it must never be rebuilt; the reformist union must be rebuilt in preference. This is the logical consequence of all Trot thinking on Spain or other countries where such unions exist, proving their preference for reformist unions’ negative character, which lends itself to a leadership they may capture; as against a decentralised union which a leadership cannot capture.
Notwithstanding this preference for non-revolutionary unions, and condemnation of Anarchists for unions built from the bottom up, all Marxist-Leninists have a seemingly contradictory criticism of Anarchists, namely “they are petty bourgeois”.
This leads them into another difficulty — how can one reconcile the existence of anarcho-syndicalist unions with “petty-bourgeois” origins — and how does one get over the fact that most Marxist-Leninists of today are professional ladies and gentlemen studying for or belonging to the conservative professions? The answer is usually given that because anarchism is “petty bourgeois” those embracing it “whatever their occupation or social origins” must also be “petty bourgeois”; and because Marxism is working class, its adherents must be working class “at least subjectively”. This is a sociological absurdity, as if “working class” meant an ideological viewpoint. It is also a built-in escape clause.
Yet Marx was not such a fool as his followers. “Petty bourgeois” in his day did not mean a solicitor or an accountant, a factory manager, sociologist ,or anything of that sort (they were “bourgeois” — the term was “petit” or small not “petty” that qualified the adjective — and meant precisely that these were not the same as bourgeoisie). The small burgher was one who had less privileges, economically, than the wealthy but had some privileges by virtue of his craft. Anarchism, said Marx, was the movement of the artisan worker — that is to say, the self-employed craftsman with some leisure to think and talk, not subject to factory hours and discipline, independently-minded and difficult to threaten, not backward like the peasantry. In England, these people tended to become Radicals, perhaps because the State was less oppressive and less obviously unnecessary. In many countries, however, they were much more extreme in their Radicalism and in the Swiss Jura the clockmakers’ Anarchism prospered. It spread to Paris — and the Paris Commune was, above all, a rising of the artisans who had been reduced to penury by Napoleon III and his war. As the capitalist technique spread throughout the world, the artisans were ruined and driven into the factories. It is these individual craftsmen entering industrialisation who became Anarchists, pointed out successive Marxists. They are not conditioned to factory discipline which produces good order, unlike a proletariat prepared to accept a leadership and a party, and to work for ever in the factory provided it comes under State control.
That this observation was true is seen by the crushing of the commune in Paris and in Spain and throughout the world, especially in places like Italy, Bulgaria, in the Jewish pale of settlement in Russia, and so on. It should be the task of an Anarchist union movement to seize the factories, but only in order to break down mass production and get back to craftsmanship. This is what Marx meant by a “petit bourgeois” outlook and the term having changed its meaning totally, the Marxists — like believers accepting Holy Writ — misunderstood him totally.
The reluctance of Marxist-Leninists to accept change is, however, above all seen in the acceptance of Lenin’s conception of the Party. (It is not that of Marx.) Lenin saw that Russia was a huge mass of inertia, with a peasantry that would not budge but took all its suffering with “Asiatic” patience. He looked to the “proletariat” to push it. But the “proletariat” was only a small part of the Russia of his day. Still he recognised it as the one class with an interest in progress — provided, he felt, it was led by shrewd, calculating, ruthless, and highly-educated people (who could only come from the upper classes in the Russia of the time). The party they created should become, as much as possible, the party of the proletariat in which that class could organise and seize power. It had then the right and the duty to wipe out all other parties.
The idiocy of applying this today in, say, a country like Britain is incredible. One has only to look at the parties which offer themselves as the various parties of the proletariat of which, incidentally, there could be only one. Compare them with the people around. The parties’ memberships are far behind in political intelligence and understanding. They are largely composed of shallow and inexperienced enthusiasts who understand far less about class struggle than the average worker.
Having translated the Russian Revolution into a mythology which places great stress on the qualities possessed by its leadership, they then pretend to possess that leadership charisma. But as they don’t have it, there is a total divorce between the working class and the so-called New Left which has, therefore, to cover itself up with long-winded phrases in the hope that this will pass for learning. In the wider “Movement” with the definitions at second hand from Marxist-Leninism, they scratch around to find someone really as backward and dispossessed as the moujik, and fall back on the “Third World” mythology.
The one criticism, applied by Marxist-Leninists, of Anarchism with any serious claim to be considered is, therefore, solely that of whether political action should be considered or not. Whenever it has been undertaken outside the class it has proved of benefit only to leaders from outside the class.
The Social-Democratic Critique of Anarchism
The early Socialists did not understand that there would be necessarily a difference between Anarchism and Socialism. Both were socialist, but whereas the latter hoped to achieve socialism by Parliamentary means, the latter felt that revolutionary means were necessary. As a result many early Anarchist and socialist groups (especially in Britain) were interchangeable in working-class membership. Something might come from political action; something by industrial methods; the Revolution had to be fought as soon as possible; the one therefore was complementary to the other though it was recognised that they might have to follow separate paths. At least. so it was thought.
This, however, changed because the face of socialism changed. It dropped its libertarian ideas for Statism. “Socialism” gradually came to mean State Control of everything and, therefore, so far from being another face of Anarchism, was its direct opposite. From saying originally that “the Anarchists were too impatient”, therefore, the parliamentary Socialists turned to a criticism of the Anarchists leveled at them by people who had no desire to change society at all, whether sooner or later. They picked up what is essentially the conservative criticism of Anarchism which is essentially that the State is the arbiter of all legality and the present economic order is the only established legal order. A Stateless society — or even its advocacy — is thus regarded as criminal in itself! It is not, as a law, but to this day a police constable in court — or a journalist — will for this reason refer to Anarchism as if it were self-evidently criminal.
Most upholders of any parliamentary system deliberately confuse parliamentarism with democracy as an ideal system of equal representation, as if it already existed. Thus ultra-parliamentarism is “undemocratic, suggesting that a few hundred men and a few dozen women selected at random and alone had the right of exercising control over the rest of the country.
Since the Russianisation of “Communism”, turning away from both parliamentarism and democracy, it has suited the Social-Democrat to speak of criticism from the revolutionary side as being necessarily from those wanting dictatorship. The Anarchists, who can hardly be accused of dictatorship — except by politically illiterate journalists who do not understand the differences between parties — must therefore be “criminal” and whole labour movements have been so stigmatised by the Second International. This was picked up by the U.S. Government with its “criminal-syndicalism” legislation which was similar to that in more openly fascist countries.
No more than the Marxist-Leninists, the Social-Democrats (in the sense of orthodox Labourites) are unable to state that their real objection to Anarchism is that fact that it is against power and privilege and so undermines their whole case. They bring up, if challenged, the objection that it is “impossible”. If “impossible”, what have they to fear from it? Why, in countries like Spain and Portugal, where the only chance of resisting tyranny was the Anarchist Movement, did Social-Democrats prefer to help the Communist Party? In Spain, up to the appearance of the Socialist Party when it was politically profitable to switch, the British Labour Party helped the Communist-led factions but did nothing for the Anarchist resistance.
Dictatorship of the proletariat is “possible”, only too much so. When it comes it will sweep the socialists away. But if the Anarchists resist, the Socialists will at least survive to put forward their alternative. They fear only the consequences of that alternative being decisively rejected — for who would choose State Socialism out of the ashcan for nothing if they could have Stateless Socialism instead?
In the capitalist world, the Social Democrat objects to revolutionary methods, the “impatient” and alleged “criminality” of the Anarchists. But in the Communist world, social-democracy was by the same conservative token equally “criminal” (indeed more so) since it presumably postulated connection with enemy powers, as is now proved. The charge of “impatience” could hardly be leveled when there was no way of effecting a change legally and the whole idea of change by parliamentary methods was a dream. Social-democracy, in the sense of Labourism, gives up the fight without hope when tyranny triumphs (unless it can call on foreign intervention, as in occupied war-time Europe). It has nothing to offer. There is no struggle against fascism or Leninism from social-democracy because no constitutional methods offer themselves. In the former Soviet Union and its satellites, they had no ideas on how to change and hoped that nationalists and religious dissidents would put through a bit of liberalism to ease the pressure. We know now how disastrous that policy has been. Yet anarchism offers a revolutionary attack upon the communist countries that is not only rejected by the Social-Democrats; powerful, they unite with other capitalist powers to harass and suppress that attack.
The Liberal-Democratic Objection to Anarchism
Liberal-Democracy, or non-fascist conservatism, is afraid to make direct criticisms of Anarchism because to do so undermines the whole reasoning of Liberal-Democracy. It therefore resorts to falsification: Anarchists are equated with Marxists (and thereby the whole Marxist criticism of anarchism ignored). The most frequent target of attack is to suggest that Anarchism is some form of Marxism plus violence, or some extreme form of Marxism.
The reason Liberal-Democracy has no defence to offer against real Anarchist argument is because Liberal-Democracy is using it as its apologia, in the defence of “freedom”, yet placing circumscribing walls around it. It pretends that parliamentarism is some form of democracy, but though sometimes prepared to admit (under pressure) that parliamentarism is no form of democracy at all, occasionally seeks to find ways of further democratising it. The undoubtedly dictatorial process that a few people, once elected by fair means or foul, have a right to make decisions for a majority, is covered up by a defence of the constitutional rights or even the individual liberty of members of Parliament only. Burke’s dictum that they are representatives, not delegates, is quoted ad nauseam (as if this reactionary politician had bound the British people for ever, though he as himself admitted, did not seek to ask their opinions of the matter once).
Liberal economics are almost as dead as the dodo. What rules is either the monopoly of the big firms, or of the State. Yet laissez-faire economics remain embodied aspirations of the Tory Party which they never implement. They object to the intervention of the State in business, but they never care to carry the spirit of competition too far. There is no logical reason why there should be any restriction on the movement of currency — and this is good Tory policy (though never implemented! Not until the crisis, any crisis, is over!). From this point of view, why should we not be able to deal in gold pieces or U.S. dollars, or Maria Theresa tales, or Francs, or Deutschmarks, or even devalued Deutschmarks? The pound sterling would soon find its own level, and if it were devalued, so much the worse for it. But why stop there? If we can choose any currency we like, free socialism could coexist with capitalism and it would drive capitalism out.
Once free socialism competes with capitalism — as it would if we would choose to ignore the State’s symbolic money and deal in one of our own choosing, which reflected real work values — who would choose to be exploited? Quite clearly no laissez-faire economist who had to combine his role with that of party politician would allow things to go that far.
Liberal-Democracy picks up one of the normal arguments against Anarchism which begin on the right wing: namely, it begins with the objections against socialism — that is Statism — but if there is an anti-Statist socialism that is in fact more liberal than itself, then it is “criminal”. If it is not, then it seeks law to make it so.
This argument is in fact beneath contempt, yet it is one that influences the press, police, and judiciary to a surprising extent. In fact Anarchism as such (as distinct from specific Anarchist organisations) could never be illegal, because no laws can make people love the State. It is only done by false ideals such as describing the State as “country”.
The fact is that Liberal-Democracy seldom voices any arguments against Anarchism as such — other than relying on prejudice — because its objections are purely authoritarian and unmask the innate Statism and authoritarianism of liberalism. Nowadays conservatives like to appropriate the name “liberalism” to describe themselves as if they were more receptive to freedom than socialists. But their liberalism is confined to keeping the State out of interfering in their business affairs. Once anarchism makes it plain that it is possible to have both social justice and to dispense with the Statethey are shown in their true colours. Their arguments against State socialism and Communism may sound “libertarian”, but their arguments against Anarchism reveal that they are essentially authoritarian. That is why they prefer to rely upon innuendo, slanders. and false reporting, which is part of the establishment anti-anarchism, faithfully supported by the media.
The Fascist Objection to Anarchism
The fascist objection to Anarchism is, curiously enough, more honest than that of the Marxist, the liberal or the Social-Democrat. Most of these will say, if pressed, that Anarchism is an ideal, perhaps imperfectly understood, but either impossible of achievement or possible only in the distant future. The fascist, on the contrary, admits its possibility; What is denied is its desirability.
The right-wing authoritarian (which term includes many beyond those naming themselves fascists) worships the very things which are anathema to Anarchists, especially the State. Though the conception of the State is idealised in fascist theory, it is not denied that one could do without it. But the “first duty of the citizen is to defend the State” and it is high treason to oppose it or advocate its abolition.
Sometimes the State is disguised as the “corporate people” or the “nation,” giving a mystical idea of the State beyond the mere bureaucratic apparatus of rule. The forces of militarism and oppression are idealised (after the German emperor who said that universal peace was “only a dream and not even a good dream”). Running throughout right-wing patriotism is a mystical feeling about the “country”, but though Nazis in particular sometimes have recourse to an idealisation of the “people” (this has more of a racial than popular connotation in German), it is really the actual soil that is held sacred, thus taking the State myth to its logical conclusion. For the Anarchist this, of course, is nonsense. The nonsense can be seen in its starkest form with the followers of Franco who killed off so many Spaniards even after the Civil War was ended, while hankering for the barren rock of Gibraltar: especially in General Milan de Astrray, who wanted to kill off “bad Spaniards” and eradicate Catalans and Basques in the name of unitary Spain, thus (as Unamuno pointed out) making Spain as “one-armed and one-eyed, as the General was himself”.
Anarchism is clearly seen by fascists as a direct menace and not a purely philosophical one. It is not merely the direct action of Anarchists but the thing itself which represents the evil. The “democratic” media finally got around to picking up these strands in fascist thinking, ironing them out nicely, and presenting them in the “news” stories. Hitler regarded the Authoritarian State he had built as millennial (the thousand-year state) but he knew it could be dismembered and rejected. His constant theme was the danger of this and while he concentrated (for political reasons) attacks on a totalitarian rival, State Communism (since Russia presented a military menace), his attacks on “cosmopolitanism” have the reiterated theme of anti-Anarchism.
“Cosmopolitanism” and “Statelessness” are the “crimes” Nazism associated with Jews, though since Hitler’s day large numbers of them have reverted to nationalism and a strong state. The theme of “Jewish domination” goes hand in hand with “anarchist destruction of authority, morals, and discipline”, since fascism regards personal freedom as bad in itself and only national freedom permissible. Insofar as one can make any sense of Hitler’s speeches (which are sometimes deceptive since he followed different strands of thought according to the way he could sway an audience), he believed “plunging into Anarchy” of a country (abolition of State restraints) will lead to chaos, which will make it possible for a dictatorship other than the one in the people’s interests to succeed.
Hitler did not confuse State Communism with Anarchism (as Franco did deliberately) for propaganda purposes, to try to eradicate Anarchism from history. He equated Communism with “Jewish domination”, and the case against the Jews (in original Nazi thinking) that they are a racially-pure people who will gain conquest over helots like the Germans.
A “Master Race” must control the Germans to keep the rival State out. In a condition of freedom the German “helots” would revert to Anarchy, just as the racially “inferior” Celts of France threw out the Norman Nordic overlords (the Houston Chamberlain version of the French Revolution). Later, of course, when Nazism became a mass Party it was expedient to amend this to saying the Germans were the Master Race, but this was not the original Nazi philosophy, nor was it privately accepted by the Nazi leaders (“the German people were not worthy of me”). But they could hardly tell mass meetings that they were all “helots”. At least not until their power was complete. This idea that a whole people (whichever it was) can be born “helots” could not be better expressed as the contrary opposite of Anarchism, since in this case it would indeed be impossible.
This Nazi propaganda is echoed by the media today; “plunging the country into Anarchy would be followed by a Communist or extreme right-wing dictatorship” is current newspaper jargon.
To sum up the fascist objection to Anarchism: It is not denied the abolition of the State can come about, but if so, given economic, social, and political freedom, the “helots” — who are “naturally inclined” to accept subjection from superior races — will seek for masters. They will have a nostalgia for “strong rule”.
In Nazi thinking, strong rule can only come from (in theory) racially-pure members of the “Master Race” (something a little more than a class and less than a people), which can be constructive masters (i.e., the “Aryans”), or a race which has had no contact with the “soil” and will be thus destructive.
In other types of fascist thinking, given freedom, the people will throw off all patriotic and nationalistic allegiances and so the “country” will cease to be great. This is the basis of Mussolini’s fascism, and, of course, it is perfectly true, bearing in mind that “the country” is his synonym for the State and his only conception of greatness is militaristic. The frankest of all is the Spanish type of fascism which sought to impose class domination of the most brutal kind and make it plain that its opposition to Anarchism was simply in order to keep the working class down. If necessary, the working class may be, and was, decimated in order to crush Anarchism.
It is true of all political philosophies and blatant with the fascist one, that its relationship to Anarchism throws as clear light upon itself!
The Average Person’s Objection to Anarchism
Generally speaking, the ordinary people pick up their objection to Anarchism from the press, which in turn is influenced by what the establishment wants. For many years there was a press conspiracy of silence against Anarchism, followed in the 1960 by a ruling on transcribing Anarchism and Marxism, or Anarchism and nationalism, so that the one must be referred to the other, in order to confuse. This was bourn out in many exposures in Black Flag showing where avowed Marxists were in the turbulent Sixties described in the press as “Anarchists” while avowed Anarchists were described as “Marxists” or “nationalists”. On some occasions nationalists were called “Anarchists,” but usually when the word “Anarchist” was being used as if to describe oneself as an Anarchist, it was to make a confession of guilt. This, as we have seen, is picked up from the Liberal-Democratic attitude to Anarchism. But it is flavoured strongly with the fascist attitude, too. Because of it, the phrase “self-confessed Anarchist” came to be used by the Press to describe a person who is an Anarchist as opposed to someone who they have merely labeled Anarchist in order to confuse.
This has altered somewhat with the commercial exploitation of Anarchism by commercial exploitation of music and academic exploitation of philosophy, giving rise to a middle-class liberal version of an Anarchist as a liberal-minded philosopher, a harmless eccentric, a drop out, or a person wearing fashionably unfashionable clothes.
As opposed to this increasingly popular misconception, the average person takes the fascist view of anarchism — as picked up in its entirety by police officers and others — as genuine, but tempered with the fact that they do not take it quite seriously. Sometimes they confuse the word “revolutionary”, and assume all who protest are thereby Anarchist. This ignorance, however, is more often displayed by journalists than it is by the general public.
When it comes down to an objection to Anarchism as it is, as distinct from objections to a mythological Anarchism as imagined or caricatured by the authoritarian Parties or establishment, or practised by the alternative establishment, there are not many serious objections from the general public. They may not think it practical of realisation if presented in a positive way to them, but they usually do so if presented in a negative way — i.e. describing the tyranny of the State. The fact that we could dispense with authoritarian parties, the worthlessness of politicians, and so on is generally agreed. The sole main objection is perhaps the feeling that they want to make the best out of life as it is: and they do not feel strong enough to challenge the State or to face the struggle involved in bringing about a Free Society, or put up with the many vicissitudes (major and minor) that make up the life of a militant or someone reasonably committed to an ideal. The temptations are greatto conform and to accept the bribes which the capitalist class can now hold out. Only when the State wants its last ounce of blood do people wake up to the need for resistance, but then it is too late and also, of course, the State then takes on the pretence of being “the country”, in order to be loved instead of hated or disliked.
The Reduction of Anarchism to Marginalisation
By crafty methods, not used against other political theories, it is endeavoured by Statist propaganda to marginalise Anarchism to nothing. It is confused by journalists, professors, and subsidised “researchers” to show that Anarchists are identical to dropouts, drug-takers, nationalist assassins, New-Age travelers, political dissidents, militant trade unionists, young rebels, middle-class theorists, dreamers, plotters, comedians, frustrated reformers, extreme pacifists, murderers, schoolboy rebels, and criminals. Some Anarchists, one supposes, could be any but hardly all of these — as could members of all political persuasions — but none could be descriptive of the cause. By misuse of the word “Anarchist”, or by added “alleged” or “self-confessed” Anarchist; or by conjoining the word with an obvious contradiction, Anarchism can be marginalised and, by implication, Statist theories made to seem the norm.
— Albert Meltzer