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On the Appeal of Anarchism, a Response to Don Smith's "Are Anarchists in Occupy Aiding Grover Norquist?"

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Smith: Without government we'd be hunter gatherers.

Government invented agriculture? Actually, it was the other way around--surplus gave rise to the state.

Anarchism, if nothing else, represents a liberation from this type of lunacy. In an anarchist society, there would be no state, no coercive body (nor any incentive) to enfeeble people so thoroughly that they would utter anything as ludicrous as this.

Smith: I don't believe that a modern society can function without a centralized government.

How would we know as that is all we have ever had? Centralized governments are not inclined to decentralize themselves. Moreover, it is not so much a matter of whether some sort of central institution exists (although some anarchist would disagree), the question is where decision-making power will reside. If the U.S. went anarchist tomorrow, we would still have need of the FAA or something like it.

Here again self-management comes into play. Decision-making should be the collective enterprise of the whole, and not the purview of a class of privileged viziers, even elected ones. To anarchists, the phrase "direct democracy" is redundant. We have a right to govern ourselves. To paraphrase the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front: "It is time to replace government with counter power by the people. This means we want worker/community control of the economy, from below. We want democratic and direct self management of industry by workers in their workplaces; we want self-management of communities by those who live in them. We want to collectively decide how we run our lives."



Where face-to-face democracy is not tenable, authority can be ceded to an organization such as the FAA. I know I wouldn't want to fly without them. The point is that whatever organizations exist need to be worker run, and those to whom authority is granted must be controlled from below.

Smith: Give me an example where anarchism, or something based on it, worked in a modern nation.

Give me an example of where it had a chance. We came closest in Spain, where great swaths of that country came under self-rule. But Spanish anarchism was born on a battlefield, and it was crushed with the overt help of the German and Italian fascists, and with the covert assistance of British and American intelligence services. Anarchism is the enemy of wealth and power, anyone who has either has an interest in destroying it. It really never had a chance to flourish. No anarchist community has self destructed. No people have ever abandoned self-rule in favor of a state. In each case these societies were overtaken by force, and from without.

But of greater importance is that whenever there has been a power vacuum people invariably organize themselves democratically, and along anarchist lines. This occurred in Manchuria after WW1, and in many spots around Russia in the years following the October Revolution of 1917. It happened in liberated Greece and Italy after WW2, before the Allies came in and crushed them. And there are many other examples.

The point is not whether there have been any long-lasting anarchist societies, this is just a measure of how successful authoritarian regimes have been in suppressing them. Rather, what is important is the eternal propensity for anarchism which invariably manifests itself whenever people are lucky enough to be set free. People are predisposed to democracy. Anarchism is natural, the state is artificial.

Smith says that the Occupy Movement fell apart due to infighting. While there was no denying that there was a good deal of acrimony within the Left here in Seattle (although not so much within the anarchist faction), it is just absurd to say the movement imploded. It was taken down by the state: police, the FBI, and the DHS, to name a few. It was not we who pepper-sprayed each other. It was not we who broke down each others' doors and threw in flash-bang grenades. It was not we who kicked people peacefully sleeping in tents. I could go on and on.

So what is anarchism's appeal? It is the equal distribution of wealth and power. It is the freedom to be self-governing, to have an equal say in the affairs of society, to have control over one's own life. It is freedom from war, economic exploitation, tyranny. It is the hope of living in a world without racism, sexism, or other forms of sectarianism which divide us into hostile factions. It is the hope of living in a world without borders. It is the desire to live without fear; to live in a world where the other inhabitants of our planet, people who may look or speak or dress differently, are not seen as enemies against whom we must struggle or perish, but are recognized for what they are--our fellow human beings; other branches of the family tree, with whom we can cooperate to our mutual advantage, and from whom we have much to learn.

Anarchism is freedom from this vile, loveless world of capitalism; freedom from a world of the fierce and often lethal competition of free markets. Capitalism does to people what Michael Vick does to dogs. The promise of anarchism is that it removes all that pits one human being against another, subordinates one to another.  Anarchism is the end of the world of warring camps, the end of the age of the sword.

Finally, Anarchism is the end of supremacy--all supremacy. It is the beginning of an age in which humanity is exalted. It is a world in which every institution you enter expects and welcomes your participation, encourages your contribution. It is a society which recognizes, as Altiero Spinelli put it, that every human being is an autonomous center of life, a unique form of sentience, and as such all are equal and entitled to equal consideration and respect; a society which recognizes our kinship.

Once the merciless, obscene world of state and capital is vanquished, and society is thus transformed, the Dark Ages will finally come to an end, and the real Enlightenment can begin, an age of peace and plenty. That is anarchism's appeal.

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Dave Fryett is an anarchist in Seattle.

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On the Appeal of Anarchism, a Response to Don Smith's "Are Anarchists in Occupy Aiding Grover Norquist?"

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Comments welcome.... by Dave Fryett on Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 2:02:01 PM
The only point I question is your assertion 'that ... by Paul Repstock on Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 9:39:49 PM
This is what Proudhon had in mind, it's called Mut... by Dave Fryett on Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 1:49:12 AM
Has too many chiefs, not enough Indians.   ... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 6:55:29 AM
Thanks, Dave, for an eloquent, intelligent, and in... by Katherine Acosta on Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 9:19:04 AM
The term Anarchism has  always been a catch a... by Paul Repstock on Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 9:35:26 AM
As Michael Parenti perspicaciously put it, words c... by Dave Fryett on Thursday, Sep 20, 2012 at 12:33:54 AM
Thx Kathy. Characterizing all types of social diso... by Dave Fryett on Thursday, Sep 20, 2012 at 12:25:17 AM
"At the core of our thought is equality, anarchism... by Joe Giambrone on Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 3:18:33 PM
Well, it seems we've forced one of them out into t... by Dave Fryett on Thursday, Sep 20, 2012 at 1:48:50 AM
What happens with the outliers?  Are there pr... by terrilian on Thursday, Sep 20, 2012 at 3:44:30 PM
Hi terrilion, thx for the interest.Btw, nice photo... by Dave Fryett on Friday, Sep 21, 2012 at 3:26:47 AM
re "if someone runs a black market for goods and b... by Dave Fryett on Saturday, Sep 22, 2012 at 3:36:27 AM
Thank you for your replies. I spent the weekend wo... by terrilian on Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012 at 3:45:44 PM
hey terrilion, just back from vacation, hence the ... by Dave Fryett on Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 11:54:00 PM
You seem like a nice guy, and I do admire your ent... by terrilian on Friday, Oct 5, 2012 at 6:20:26 PM
I just discovered this article. Thanks for respond... by Don Smith on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 9:44:28 AM