The Relevance fo Anarchy
This article is meant for those not familiar with the concepts of anarchism, however I think it is an interesting read either way. It was taken out of an english anarchist journal entitled FREEDOM. enjoy.
Anarchism is a philosophy of freedom. It is a body of revolutionary ideas which reconciles, as no other revolutionary concept does, the necessity for individual freedom with the demands of society. It is a commune-ist philosophy which starts from the individual and works upwards, instead of starting from the state and working downwards. Social structure in an anarchist society would be carefully and conciously kept to a minimum and would be strictly functional; where organisation is necessary, it would be maintained, but there would be no organisation for its own sake. This would help to prevent the hardening of organisations into institutions-- the hard core of government.
The heart of anarchism is its opposition to government. Not just a particular Government, but governmentas an institution. This i explicitly expressed in the word 'anarchism', meaning the philosophy or ideology which aims at 'anarchy': the absence of government. This aim is shared by other ideologies-- socialist and communist-- who see the 'withering away of the State' as a desirable goal, but conceive the way towards that goal as lying through the use of the very institutions they want to abolish. Anarchists maintain that the use of these repressive institutions in the name of revolution, or of progress, or of freedom, corrupts the revolution, inhibits progress and crushes freedom.
For anarchists, the end determines the means. If your end is a society without government, then you do not do anything to support the idea or fact of government or to encourage the idea that government can in any way be desirable. If your aim is the abolition of the State- which is the concentration of the institution of government- then you do nothing to encourage the life of the State by pretending it can be used for liberation. All the means by which people are governed are the anathema to anarchism.
This adds up to a coherent and logical ideology and within itself anarchism is a perfect set of ideas. In its application to the existing 'real' world, however, it is being applied to very imperfect situations. And furthermore, anarchists themselves differ in their interpretations of anarchism, both in relation to current events and in the emphasis they put upon the various aspects of the overall philosophy.
This can lead to apparent contradictions. Anacho-syndicalists who advocate the abolition of the wage system support workers on strike for higher wages; individualists who are opposed to the State see no reason why they should not avail themselaves of the social services when they are unemployed; anti-parliamentarians support abolition of a law (hanging, abortion, homosexuality) which can only be done through parliament; anti-imperialists condemn 'national liberation' movements which are fighting an imperialist oppressor; anti-war militants who have gone to prison rather than take up arms support a violent revolution... and so on.
This is not quite as absord as it may appear. We have to live in the world as it is- but as anarchists we are going to do our damnedest to make it as we would like it to be. We know how beautiful life could be, but we have to start from the ugly reality.
Now each anarchist will make her/his own moves and if we respect each other we will respect our comrade's own scale of priorities. Thus, for example, the anarcho-syndicalist will be concerned primarily with achieving workers' control of industry, and this necessitates building up workers' confidence in their own powers. Every victory in even a minor struggle encourages this confidence; every defeat diminishes it. So the anarchist in an industrial context will throw in his/her effort to help win a dispute which perhaps in itself is irrelevant as far as a money-less society is concerned, but which will teach the workers more about tactics, about the value of direct action, about their importance in society, the creativity of their work, their dignity as human beings- perhaps a hundred lessons.
For we should not forget that there are two aspects of anarchism: the end and the means. We have implied the end: anarchy, the society without government or any of the means of government, without money and the wage system and the exploitation they bring; without the State which defends that exploitation through the law, the police, the prisons, the contitutional murder of the gallows or the gas chamber, all backed up by the army, navy and air force; the inculcation which passes for education, the subtle pressures of bureaucracy and the Church. Anarchy means the replacement of these anti-social forces by free association and mutual ais, by free access to the means of life, by the joy of making and sharing and living. A delightful ideal!
Anarchism also means the struggle to achieve all this. A bitter struggle against ruthless forces which will apparently stop at nothing to maintain the power set-up as it is. The great advantage anarchism has is that it is not side-tracked into diversions like the parliamentary struggle, like 'workers' government' or the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', trying to achieve power in order to abolish it or the historical process or any other mythology. Anarchism teaches the governed to use their strength where it matters- at the point of production; and to use it in the way it matters- by direct action.
The means of freedom for the end of freedom: that is the relevance and strength of anarchism.
14th February 1970
by: Bill Christopher
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