Why Anarchy is Not Possible Today (But is Tomorrow)

Difficulty    

This Text Can Be Found in the Book,
The Evolution of Consent: Collected Essays (Vol. I)


I realize that anarchy is not possible today. Anarchists do not have a vanguard or a party to make things “better” right now. Anarchists oppose political hierarchy in all of its forms, so in order for an anarchist society to exist the participants themselves must be anarchists, in ideology and methodology, or the system will fail and hierarchy will renew itself. Anarchism, then, is an evolutionary process. It only happens when it is wanted, for those who want it enough to work for it. For this reason, it is today impossible.

So, if I understand this, why am I still so adamantly an anarchist, and why am I working towards something that is, today, futile?

Well, it’s not that the majority of people today don’t hold the faculty for self-management, as if it were a genetic block. Instead, it is a difficulty with learned behavior, beliefs. People don’t know about the alternatives to capitalism and the state, nor are they entirely aware of what is happening around them to begin with. Current conditions and beliefs keep anarchy from establishing itself.

People are tacitly taught not to believe in their own potential. We are brought, at birth, into a society where we have little to no influence in the sphere of our own lives. From the day we become cognizant of our selves we are taught that someone else has the right answer and not to believe in our own rationality for a sense of the truth. It first begins with parents and family, then on to teachers in classrooms and religious leaders in church, police on the streets, one’s boss and one’s landlord, one’s banker, the media, the scientists, and, most importantly, the state.

For this reason, what anarchists are battling is the external locus of control (will to be controlled) that has been fostered in our society: learned helplessness. Motivation has been conditioned to come from outside forces, such as authority, and the will to dictate one’s own desires has become stifled by fear of consequence. The majority of people are content to sit by and watch, listen, and read others’ accomplishments, feeling they have no access to that sphere of influence themselves. Though this may be true at times, to varying extents, many of us miss out on our own potential out of unnecessary fear and consequence. We too could be those people discussing their successes, if we wanted to be, but we choose not to. We choose not to use what we have, not to reach out for it. Instead, we remain alone, silent, and unable to solve our problems, when, if we could connect with others with similar thoughts, we could actually organize to make our lives better.

We are taught to glorify other individuals— authority— in the home, school, church, and in society at large. We lose sight of the fact that these heroes and heroines are no more divine than ourselves, and that the only difference is that they have somehow developed an internal locus of control. Most of the famous people we are taught about in school held some form of economic privilege, but there are also those who didn’t. Those who did were not facing the same hurdles as the abiding classes, but were destined to become part of the elite at birth. Those who did not have privilege somehow faced conditions, relative to their own genetics, that allowed them to develop internal motivation. Thus, the methodology of the anarchists should become a way to foster, in all of the egos of the abiding class, an internal locus of control, and the way to do this is to manipulate conditions to allow for the maximum fertility of one’s own ideas. How do we go about doing this? How do we become influential without becoming part of the hierarchy? It’s in the way that we treat each other and relate to society.

Projects that are important for the development of anarchism and non-hierarchical relationships include democratic education, unionism, cooperatives, decentralized technology, tax-evasion, alternative currency, draft-dodging, mutual aid, and more. All of these are important aspects of anarchism, but they don’t mean a damn thing if their development becomes part of the state, as oftentimes occurs.[1]

When authority sees the rise of self-management it finds the quickest means possible by which to co-opt the idea and make it work toward its own (the state’s) goals instead. Thus, the rise of the chartered artisan guilds of medieval Europe who— as explained to me first by an old Wobbly, Gene Akins—, after succumbing to government protection of their patents, became a part of the established authority. The guilds became an influence to the business unions of the US, who stifled the rise of the more revolutionary and solidarity-based unionism of the early industrial type, such as the IWW. The business unions stifled success by submitting to the wills of their bosses and by competing with members of their own class for better contracts, instead of cooperating with them as fellow workers to end employer control altogether (to be replaced by a new practice of contractual mutual aid). Worker self-management and cooperation is ideal, but cooperatives, too, are starting to be used by the state now. When projects— such as the printing of new money (such as LETS, or “Hours” of many kinds), cooperatives, unionism, etc.— develop, but they give in to state-protection of their interests from competition, they become part of the deciding class, part of the bigger machine known to some as Leviathan or Moloch.

Anarchists must foster an open-source sense of knowledge. An important part of the development of anarchism is the free flow of information. For this reason, anarchist authors oftentimes release their work into the public domain, asking only to be given credit for the work’s development. Such a license allows individuals to pass the material around and for its production to be decentralized. This greatly enhances the education of society towards anarchist values of mutual respect, both through its written text and through the direct-action by which the text itself is released (under the preferred conditions of its anarchist, or even just friendly, author).

Demonstration through direct-action is the strongest methodology of anarchist education. By creating alternative means for living and reducing costs through solidarity, we demonstrate the new society to those around us, hopefully compelling them to join us. Philosophizing can be helpful, but only so long as it is followed by practical application.

Cooperatives need to foster the development of other cooperatives and take a stand against market regulation. Unions need to open their membership to decision-making power and promote a model of worker-self management while they practice it in their own organization. Anarchist educators need to listen to pupils’ opinions with respect and foster the development of knowledge in each person so that he or she too may become a teacher. Those who issue scrip should foster similar schemes across the world. Those who read should write, and those who write should read.

When we begin to see “lay people” taking on their own projects, and seceding from the corporate market sphere and government control in their lives, it will be an influence on all of us. If we see workers managing themselves and sharing the profits we will want that for ourselves too, and so we will seek to become worker-owners as well, either through acceptance into an existing cooperative or by our own entrepreneurship. The same should be true of any successful anarchist model. We should be seeing other groups printing their own currencies, and when we realize the benefit, follow suit. Even better: Lead the way. If there’s a need, and both exist, two separate but similar projects can federate.

If we are inspired by the knowledge of others we should respect the teachers but not hold them above ourselves, and instead find in them the inspiration to extend their work past their very own vision. If this happens more often, replacing much of authority with disobedient, but highly efficient, self-management, we will be stoking the agitation of spectators, reducing their role as such. An entire culture will catch on, and, when it does, this will be the first stage of the revolution— the awareness of the masses—, which will eventually put an end to the spectator/participant separation in political economy today.

In order to stoke the egos of others, we must first stoke our own and believe in our own abilities to set a positive model. We need to be the lay people who make things work, as an example for others. We must realize that those we feel are successful, or have privilege, are still just people. Think about their circumstances. They are not of superior genetic stock, they have been given settings that allowed them to develop an internal locus of control or confidence, but there is no physical difference. Most often, economic privileges are the culprit for unfair advantage, but there are those who have gone “from rags to riches” as well. Unfortunately most of them made it by chance; people who had money liked them and lent or gave it to them for a great deal. Though developing their own ego, the others who succeeded without such privilege of chance had not the slightest desire to share their internal change with the world by promoting the success of others. So yes, stoke your own ego, try to change the world, read, and apply your knowledge to your own success, but know that it means nothing for the future, outside of yourself, if you do not respect others as equals and promote their success as well. Promote your students as your very own teacher, learn from them and they will see your respect and will learn from you even more for seeing their knowledge as such. Treat your customers as business associates, for if the economy wasn’t so large, filled with usury, and centralized, you would find yourself on opposite sides of the counter for them as well. You would find yourself the customer of your own.

This is the very society I desire; where all customers are workers and not parasites, where all workers are not slaves but also able customers, where all educators are learning from one another; for such is the most realizable coming from our situation, as it is not stopped by our inability to rationalize and enact it, but by ignorance of the alternative or of others who feel the same.

Anarchy is not possible today because people are ignorant of what it really means to be free. It is possible tomorrow only if we all break that cycle.


Notes

[1] See the relationship of syndicalism to Italian fascism.

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