Anarchism. It’s a subject of intense interest, especially among people of more liberal standpoints. There are those of the persuasion that says that human beings can exist without some appearance of a central governing body. This ideology says that human beings can police themselves and are fully capable of living without prejudice towards any other living being. The anarchist belief in a cooperative society is a wonderful theory, putting much faith in human character. Unfortunately, with the current state of human reaction, I would have to strongly disagree with this confidence.
First and foremost, it should be stated that anarchism is a very commonly used misnomer, generally attributed to someone who uses chaotic, and often times, destructive means to rebel against a chosen political standpoint, generally one which said person feels undoubtedly has been corrupted. They (that is to say, the anarchist) are often considered non-patriotic, standing against all forms of judiciary structure. Most think of anarchists as wanting nothing more then to cause the break down of human society, leading us to a proverbial “dark age,” where you have no claim over anything you cannot maintain with force. Still other’s think of them as rabble rousers, indulging in drugs, sex, alcohol, and a hedonistically unclean lifestyle, with no regard for safety. The truth is much less sinister.
The word anarchy is derived from the Greek words “an,” meaning without, and “archos,” meaning leader, governance, or ruler ship. In essence, it does mean a break down of human society, but not to a state of absolute depravity, simply to a much more primitive, simplified state. The process of a removal of all governing bodies, either religiously, politically, or economically, is a definite cause of the anarchist movement, while the maintaining of ones self image is also an important aspect of many of the various types of anarchist progression.
Anarchism, and what it means, is a highly debated topic, especially among the different architectures of anarchism. These organizations are all different and in each group there are many different views on what the true meaning is. Some of the more prominent of these configurations of thought include, but are not limited to; Anarcho-Collectivism, Anarcho-Communism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and Individualist Anarchism.
Anarcho-Collectivism, an early 19th century anarchist doctrine, supports the abolishment of the state and private ownership of the means of mass production, instead wishing to give ownership to the producers (those who actually create the product). Worker’s would be compensated on the basis of how much labor they put into the mass production of the product.
The creation of this movement is most commonly affixed to Mikhail Bukanin, the First Internationals, and the early Spanish anarchist movement. The name we now use, collectivism, was first coined to separate the collectivist anarchists form the state officials who were associated with Karl Marx.
A problem that should be noted with this particular branch of anarchism is the fact that who dictates the amount of compensation per labor hours? Also on that point, who dictates what kind of labor is worth exactly how much compensation? If you have a council gather and speak of the value of wages and labor, then you default as a republic, and you automatically fail at the abolishment of state. The same can be said for if you choose to have all individuals vote on the amount of wages and compensation of labor, except you are a democracy instead of a republic. On the later, you have someone making the decisions for you, completely over riding the concept of lack of governing body. On the other hand, if you have all members vote, then who shall make sure the vote was honest and fair? If you choose people to watch the ballots, then you are in the same quandary as you where in the beginning, and you have made no progress. Volunteers would work, but then who would watch their actions, to make sure they weren’t tipping the proverbial scale?
Anarcho-Communism is similar in several ways to the fore mentioned Collectivism approach, adding the abolition of capitalism. It does so by using a network of voluntary associations to allow everyone free to satisfy their own needs. It stresses egalitarianism (equality in all things, from wages to economic position), believing that every human being is equal, no matter race, age, or gender. This belief includes that all people who do the same career should be paid the same wage. It also believes in the distribution of wealth based on personal need.
Anarchist Communists are commonly called libertarian communists. This is due to the two groups very similar beliefs. However it is good to note that while all anarchist communists are libertarians, not all libertarian communists are anarchists. What distinguishes the two groups is that anarchist communism has an opposition to all forms of political hierarchy.
Any form of communism is flawed in one fact: It leaves no reason for improvement. If you knew you could get the same wage for repairing automobiles as a man with twenty years experience, a certification in the field, and a college education, then most human beings would rather not bother with the post high school training, if high school was even a requirement. Its also flawed in the fact that it gives no reason to excel. If mediocrity is awarded the same as excellence, then why be excellent? Personal satisfaction only goes so far with most people. The distribution of wealth based on personal need is conceptually sound, but ultimately flawed as well. Who would dictate need? As above, any group of people chosen to make decisions is a governing body and who can tell if the volunteers who watched the ballots aren’t crooked?
Anarcho-Syndicalism is a branch of anarchism focusing on the labor movement, which supports the creation of unions and uses the labor unions as a replacement for capitalism and state. After usurping these forms of economic and political oppression, they wish to replace them with democratically controlled unions with the hopes of putting power back into the workers. They seek to abolish the wage system and in the process hope to remove division of social classes.
Oddly enough, Anarcho-syndicalism is viewed as a anachronism (something that doesn’t belong in the time it is presented). However, the belief remains a popular and active school, and has many supporters. They also have many currently active groups. Many anarchists argue that this belief is more of an anarchist social structure then an economic system..
The problem with this is the use of the unions. In electing officials to represent you in the union, you have created a governing body, and a potentially one dangerous at that. They have the power to dictate wages, benefits, and hours. They could easily abuse their powers and blackmail, or bribe, people. If they did abuse their powers, the general populous would of course strike, but history has shown that there are people willing to take advantage of the situation, known as “scabs” (non-union workers)
The tradition known as Individualist Anarchism is known for its emphasis on individual sovereignty (the belief that only you have control over you) and non-aggression principle (the belief that to initiate violence is wrong). It is also against all forms of capitalism and emphasizes ones self over the group. This last part makes it in conflict with socialist anarchism, which believes in the betterment of all (rather then the self). There is also a belief that you have the right to be petitioned to buy from multiple vendors of an item you are interested in. Individualist anarchism is the form of anarchism most prevalent in the United States.
This is one of two branches of anarchism considered to be the main one, with the other being collectivist. This particular class of anarchism is sometimes seen as an evolution of classic liberalism, and is often called “liberal anarchism.” Many anarchists who follow this particular train of thought follow the “law of equal liberty,“ a belief that whatever makes man happy is good, and whatever makes man sad is bad, and the pursuit of that is a human right. It is also said in this doctrine that if you interfere with another’s pursuit of said happiness, you have overstepped and abused that right. There are several offshoots of individualist anarchism, the most common of which would be anarcho-capitalism.
This is the form of anarchism that most people find most easy to follow, but most fail to see the inherent problems in their chosen belief. In accentuating the self over others, you are in essence placing yourself above all others, something that anarchists generally frown upon. The belief that you are better then someone else just because you are you is an assault to the beliefs of most anarchists, who (usually) believe that everyone should have a fair chance at life.
It should be noted that a constant problem when using the classifications listed above, and the many others attributed to anarchist beliefs, is the complete lack of uniform opinion on what the true beliefs are. If you fill a room with two thousand anarchists you will have two thousand very different opinions. This is a cause of endless frustration to scholars, causing much debate on the topic.
Fundamentally, there is a flaw in all types of anarchism.
If you have a lack of authority, then are there no laws? If there are no laws, then you merely have survival of the fittest. People are tempted by what others have and this causes them to lash out with greed. People also have a tendency to fear what the do not, or refuse to, understand and that which they cannot control. This causes mass hysteria, making people react in ways that they would normally abhor, (i.e, Salem witch burnings and the Catholic Inquisition). The way people react means there would need to be someone who could keep the perpetrator from hurting anyone and anyone from hurting the perpetrator. In so doing you would have to establish a law system. This system of legislation would need marshals to enforce the laws. From there you would need taxes to pay for the training of these wardens. After that you would have to set up someone to keep track of the taxes, and the road would continue on. It would eventually lead to the creation of a governing body.
The real problem arises when you consider the social impactions of an ungoverned land. People generally act in a way that benefits them, with mild to no concern of those around them. This action leads people to react in a way sometimes referred to as “dog-eat-dog,” especially in situations where they view a possible gain or have no reason to be courteous. If someone came to your house with the intent of robbing it, how would you react? Most would defend themselves, but if they were over powered, the attacker would take anything and everything they wanted, and you could do nothing. Eventually this would lead to much vigilantism, which would in turn lead to people killing others, sometimes without proof of any misdeed. From there it would grow, until a form of control was brought to them, ending the warranted and unwarranted killings.
In the end, anarchism would revert to some other form of governance. It might be a republic, if there is a need for representatives to be the eyes and ears of the people. It might be a dictatorship, as the strong and persuasive take power over the docile. It might be a democracy, in which every person gets a say and has their voice heard. Ultimately, however, an anarchist world, country, or even village, would not last. The volatile nature of human beings, coupled with there want for bigger and better possessions, has made it so we are eternally going to have the proverbial “Big Brother.” What we need to consider as a species is quite simple. Why can’t people come together in harmonized unity, without the need for some overpower? Why are we unable to govern ourselves? And, most importantly, why can’t there be a need for peace, instead of a need to be better then all those around us?