For many, the word "Anarchism" and its corollaries (anarchy/anarchist) evokes negative connotations and images associated with words and concepts such as terrorism, terrorist, social disintegration, mob rule, berserker, lawlessness, horde, anti-social, cult mentality, gang mentality, etc... The negative stigma long attributed to those advocating some anarchist-leaning (and there are many different) models of government, tend to turn the public away from having any association with those who reference themselves in some anarchist framework. Despite the fact that many who label themselves as being an Anarchist are appreciably concerned with wanting to effectively address social problems; the historical definition of creating a society without the usage of any given contemporary government model is considerably frightening to many in the public. For the moment, let us review the topic of Anarchism from a brief introduction taken from the Britannica:
(Anarchism is a) cluster of doctrines and attitudes centered on the belief that government is both harmful and unnecessary. Anarchist thought developed in the West and spread throughout the world, principally in the early 20th century.
Derived from the Greek root (anarchos) meaning “without authority,” anarchism, anarchist, and anarchy are used to express both approval and disapproval. In early usage all these terms were pejorative: for example, during the English Civil Wars (1642–51) the radical Levellers, who called for universal manhood suffrage, were referred to by their opponents as “Switzerising anarchists,” and during the French Revolution the leader of the moderate Girondin faction of Parliament, Jacques-Pierre Brissot, accused his most extreme rivals, the Enragés, of being the advocates of “anarchy”:
Laws that are not carried into effect, authorities without force and despised, crime unpunished, property attacked, the safety of the individual violated, the morality of the people corrupted, no constitution, no government, no justice, these are the features of anarchy.
These words could serve as a model for the denunciations delivered by all opponents of anarchism. The anarchists, for their part, would admit many of Brissot's points. They deny man-made laws, regard property as a means of tyranny, and believe that crime is merely the product of property and authority. But they would argue that their denial of constitutions and governments leads not to “no justice” but to the real justice inherent in the free development of man's sociality—his natural inclination, when unfettered by laws, to live according to the principles and practice of mutual aid.
Source: "Anarchism." Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2013
Enragés: French(for) “Madman”
Any of a group of extreme revolutionaries in France in 1793, led by a former priest, Jacques Roux, and Varlet, a postal official, who advocated social and economic measures in favour of the lower classes.
The Enragés' name reflects the horror that they aroused in the bourgeoisie. Concerned primarily with the problem of a critical food shortage, the Enragés supported a program of price controls over commodities, requisitioning of grain, and government assistance to the poor. In the spring of 1793, they took an active part in the popular agitation that led to the overthrow of the moderate Girondins in the National Convention and pressured the Montagnards, or the Jacobins in the Convention, into taking emergency and terroristic measures to protect the Revolution.
The leaders of the Enragés, fierce critics of the government, charged it with inaction and were arrested in September 1793 by order of the ruling Committee of Public Safety. The Enragés were replaced as popular leaders of the Revolution by the group known as the Hébertists.
Source: "Enragé." Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2013.
In the present day setting, we have far too many people who are obsessed with a label that is embraced because it gives them a sense of power over others. The are various labels such as "boss", wife, husband, older brother/sister, priest, councillor, mayor, governor, police officer, MMA (mixed martial artist), boxer, trainer, teacher, doctor, etc., and in the present article, the word "Anarchist". It is a label that some use because it is like a badge to create deferment from others. They would not think of describing themselves in any other terms because the word provides them with a source of power. If we were to suggest that they are a form of Communist or Socialist, they might well argue against it by describing some point which offers themselves a degree of uniqueness. For some, it is like donning a black leather jacket as opposed to putting on a tweed jacket. Still others, in their own perspective, may well prefer to wear a business suit... like a lawyer putting on a "power suit" in order to try to assume command of a situation in which they might win a case for a person, company or representative legal firm. Labeling an Anarchist (or some Communists/Socialists) with a title such as "social reformer", may be rejected because it does not provide them with the perception they think they project in terms of some assumed status, recognition, or privately controlled intellectual territory. For some, the words "Anarchist, Anarchy, Anarchism" provides them with a certain mystique... like a medievalist practicing something of great wealth in its secrecy, owing to the fact that many Anarchists convey their ideas in the language of cryptic half-truths that do not offer a detailed representative model of that which they want to accomplish, the trials and tribulations of attempted trails, or exactly what it is they don't like. Whereas they may say the dislike one aspect of government, this alone is supposed to represent other disconcertions they can not, will not, or do not explicitly portray.
The convention of applying the terms "Anarchism, Anarchy, Anarchist" by some observers to those protesting against a government activity, is a modern attempt to replace the terms "Revolutionism, Revolution, Revolutionist" as an artificial attempt to create greater poignancy, suggesting journalistic sensationalism in order to incite a greater emotional response... like a war mongerer, so as to create a situation in which they can participate and in some measure, control through repeated provocation. This is one of the reasons why journalists are being generally viewed as a species of writer that can not be trusted nor relied upon to convey truth to the public on behalf of those protesting for corrective governing change. "Anarchism" and its corollaries (Anarchist/Anarchy) are like a badge of honor for some to wear in public as a means of gaining some especial recognition like the French Underground of World War II, and then be deserving of a tribute of respect for defying some supposed insurmountable odds like the Biblical David confronting Goliath... as the proverbial under dog whose efforts eventually become triumphant by they or a follower.
In other words, it is the idealization of a Romanticism. A delusion socially transformed into an acceptable illusion from which is squeezed a presumed reality to be achieved... yet is in actuality, the rationalization of a constructed equilibrium adopted in a given era's level and type of planetary/social deterioration taking place in incremental steps that can involve "punctuations" of deterioration involving the environment. One item of deterioration that frequently goes overlooked is the attempt (by governments and businesses) to distract the public's recognition of reducing human labor by replacing it with automation and then claim that the loss of jobs is due to a (politically contrived) displacement of jobs to other countries where cheap labor is available, and thus enable one political faction to use the argument against another and the people fall for the ruse... all the while suffering more and more losses due to automation. In short, automation is not being forcibly addressed by Anarchists, Communists, Socialists or those advocating some formula of (limited) Democracy.
In today's multi-national and multi-social theme protest movements, the words "Anarchism, Anarchy, Anarchist" have become a retail mall outlet or a singular Walmart-like variety store in which limitations are placed on what products are to be sold amongst all those available to consumers in other stores. Like many a three-element construction having cropped up in a variety of subject areas (see: Threesology Research Journal contents page 1), the multiplicity obscures the recurrence of a conservation (of number) related to constraints imposed on human cognition, such as the three large particles of atoms (protons- electrons- neutrons), triplet codes of DNA/RNA, holding a pen or pencil with three fingers, Earth is the 3rd planet, three sentence-ending punctuations (period, question mark, exclamation), three tri-mesters to pregnancy, etc... The problem with including so many different "products" under the rubric "Anarchism", is that a shotgun effect staged in the form of a conventionally played out protest strategy is like Don Quixote going against a windmill and calling it a victory if a blade of the windmill appears to retreat in the face of a protest's "vocal wind".
For some, the word "Anarchism" reeks of a social order based on some "rule of the jungle" or some other organizational "strategy" of nature seen in the world of insects, amphibians, reptiles or other "community" planning model where there exists some natural instinct to be communally oriented and be committed to some underlying sense of eqalitarianism that everyone is born with and simply need the appropriate setting in which to blossom and flourish from then on. In such a definition one can clearly see the presence of yet another flavor of utopianism that overlooks the presence of finite organisms in a decaying global, planetary and galactic system. Utopianism is an adolscent romanticism being used as a rationalization to conceal an ongoing state of adaptive equilibrium in the face of multiple environmental deteriorations. Whereas it is not that numerous people in the public would disagree with the observation of corruption in business, government and religion; it's just that their opinion of how to create a better society appeals to many as a frightening prospect because what one group of anarchists calls natural laws may be viewed differently by another group, thus setting into play a proposed social order with laws arbitrarily applied by whatever group happens to be controlling a given sector or operation on a given day... like different parts of a city falling under the rules of a given gang who controls the area one is in. For example, different people define Anarcism, Communism, Democracy, Socialism, Theoracy, etc., in different ways. Whose definition should we use? A majority or a minority with a majority opinion? And what makes your definition so much better than someone else's? Because a particular majority or minority agrees with you?
Routinely, those advocating a particular formula of rules and regulations (or government), want to ensure that they are positioned in a spot that enables them to be insulated from the harsh realities that a majority of others are subjected to due to one or another consequence or circumstance. In other words, those who are advocating a particular formula of Anarchism, just like those who advocated a particular type of Communism, Democracy or Socialism... do so only in the respect that it appears to be able to afford them a means to remain out of the degenerate life-styles which appear always to accompany any and all forms of government. All forms of government generate situations that produce enclaves of social groups which incorporate their own social values that many social reform advocates would not want to be subjected to. The same goes for Anarchism. It will necessarily produce conditions from which arise groups that will develop laws whose interpretations use the same words but define them according to the standard of one or more dominant individuals in their social setting. If there are no overall dominant laws to protect the people, they can use the arguments of Anarchism to suit their interests, and create situations which force others to do their bidding. Anarchism is being presented in a manner that suggests the public will be subjected to more vulnerabilities than they are already experiencing.
So, as an anarchist you project an image of being against the State, or at least those functions perceived as being anti-thetical to the best interests of the public because they serve a minority and not the majority. Yet, in attacking the State, or at least the state of undesirable social conditions, it is rather stupid to suggest people give up the present forms of social rule (even though some are acknowledgingly) bad), for a type of social functioning that suggests we are to rely on some sort of presumed internalized goodness that everybody will abide by because it is a universal set of behaviors all humans are endowed with. Crudely said, everyone is going to say please, thank you, and clean up after their pets taken for a walk. In short, such an idea is laughably naive. Anarchists do not typically have a grasp of the deteriorating effects of lost resources, over population and the Sun-Earth-Moon complex. (The Sun will enlarge and its energy is being exhausted. The Earth's rotation is slowing down thus altering the geo-electro-magnet. The Moon is receding, causing a reduction in the "washing-machine"/tidal effects.) Anarchists all too often employ a retrograde perception in applying fixes to social problems. They do not typically incorporate a realistic long-term nor broad application involving environmental effects on the behavioral modification of large bodies of people living in forced communal settings ever-more dependent on lower life-sustaining resources such as water, usable soil for planting, and the eco-system of necessary life forms being exterminated and whose habitats humans are encroaching on like the onslaught of a marauding invaders.
It matters not that many agree with you that the State is capable of resorting to brutally suppressing attempts at achieving a greater practice of Communism, Democracy or Socialism described in terms of some immaturely illustrated anarchist proposal; or that current forms of protest methodologies are stupid and silly; or that there exist many selfish and self-centered activities in business, government and religion. Just because anarchists make a few valid points of consideration that some agree with, does not mean those agreeing with the pencil-checked issues want to subject themselves or the rest of society to dim-witted formulas of Anarchism supplied by those who have no experience working in social services, education, corporations, financial services, with the aged, mentally handicapped, veterans, the poor, the wealthy, the middle class, the uneducated, mental health services, prison system, blue and no collar workers, youth services, youth corrections, and numerous other occupations including volunteer services such as food and clothing distribution to the needy.
When the public encounters Anarchists, Communists, Socialists and those claiming to advocate some functionally illiterate form of Democracy by offering some measure of what they believe to be a pertinent political message containing their beliefs... that may be printed in a pamphlet or some other handed-out medium; only to discover the messages to be those adopted by rather naive initiates who do not have much experience in life... it's no wonder many people walk away from them. It is not enough for reformists to cite the bad. We must also provide a viable alternative and convey this in the language(s) of those we are trying to win approval and support from. If we have a group of reformists who can not provide any observable alternative for the public to assist with, it is rather idiotic to expect the public's approval and support to be the catalyst from which some supposed or hoped-for emergent property in the form of a better society will be born as a natural occurrence. In other words, even if everyone in the world agrees with your views does not mean there is going to be some automatically occurring phenomenal change to current conditions. Then again, many a leader comes to regret the result of that which they set into motion, because it does not turn out to be as it was imagined... since many a person's imagination presents them with too simplistic a blueprint and algorithm.
Anarchism, like imagination, has many flavors. Let us look at a few examples of anarchistic thought, taken from the same Britannica article already cited:
Foundations of anarchist thought|
The first person willingly to call himself an anarchist was the French political writer and pioneer socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. In his controversial study of the economic bases of society, Qu'est ce que la propriété? (1840; What Is Property?), Proudhon argued that the real laws of society have nothing to do with authority but rather stem from the nature of society itself, and he foresaw the eventual dissolution of authority and the emergence of a natural social order:
As man seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy. Anarchy—the absence of a sovereign—such is the form of government to which we are every day approximating.
The essential elements of Proudhon's philosophy already had been developed by earlier thinkers. The rejection of political authority has a rich pedigree. It extends back to classical antiquity—to the Stoics and the Cynics—and runs through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as illustrated by dissenting Christian sects such as the medieval Catharists and certain factions of Anabaptists. For such groups—which are often mistakenly claimed as ancestors by modern anarchist writers—the rejection of government was merely one aspect of a retreat from the material world into a realm of spiritual grace, and as part of the search for individual salvation it was hardly compatible with the sociopolitical doctrine of anarchism. In all its forms, that doctrine consists of:
The first sketch of an anarchist commonwealth in this sense was developed in England in the years immediately following the English Civil Wars (1642–51) by Gerrard Winstanley, a dissenting Christian and founder of the Digger movement. In his pamphlet of 1649, Truth Lifting Up Its Head Above Scandals, Winstanley laid down what later became basic principles among anarchists:
Winstanley was not only the pioneer theorist of anarchism but also the forerunner of anarchist activism. In 1649, calling upon the people “to manure and work upon the common lands,” he and a band of followers occupied a hillside in southern England and established a society of agrarian free communism.
The Digger experiment was destroyed by local landowners, and Winstanley vanished into such obscurity that the place and date of his death are unknown. But the principles he defended lingered on in the traditions of English Protestant sects and reached their ultimate flowering in the work of a former dissenting minister, William Godwin. In his masterpiece, Political Justice (1793), Godwin not only presents the classic anarchist argument that authority is against nature and that social evils exist because men are not free to act according to reason, he also sketches out a decentralized society composed of small autonomous communities, or parishes. Within these communities democratic political procedures would be dispensed with as far as possible, because, according to Godwin, they encourage a majoritarian tyranny and dilute individual responsibility. Godwin also condemns “accumulated property” as a source of power over others and envisions a loose economic system in which people would give and take according to their needs. Godwin was a prophet of technological progress, and he believed that industrial development would eventually reduce the necessary working time to half an hour a day, provided people lived simply, and that this arrangement would facilitate the transition to a society without authority.
Godwin enjoyed great celebrity in the 1790s and influenced varied writers such as Percy Bysshe Shelley (whose Queen Mab and Prometheus Unbound are virtually anarchist poems), William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, and Robert Owen. By the time of his death in 1836, however, he was almost forgotten. Although his ideas had a subterranean influence on the British labour movement through the work of Owen, they had virtually no effect on the quasi-political anarchist movement on the continent of Europe during the mid-19th century.
The theoretical foundations of the Continental anarchist movement were laid by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. A brewer's son of peasant stock from the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, he worked for a time (like many later anarchists) as a printer. In 1838 he won a scholarship to study in Paris, where he earned notoriety as a polemicist and radical journalist. His early works What Is Property? (1840) and System of Economic Contradictions; or, The Philosophy of Poverty (1846) established him as one of the leading theoreticians of socialism, a term that in the early 19th century embraced a wide spectrum of attitudes. In Paris during the 1840s Proudhon associated with Karl Marx and the Russian nobleman-turned-revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin. From his experiences during the Revolutions of 1848 Proudhon developed the theories presented in The Federal Principle (1863) and The Political Capability of the Working Classes (1865).
Proudhon was a complex writer who remained obstinately independent, refusing to consider himself the founder of either a system or a party. Yet he was justly regarded by Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, and other leaders of organized anarchism as their philosophical ancestor.
The main themes of his work were mutualism, federalism, and the power of the working classes to liberate themselves through organized economic action, an idea later known as “direct action.” By mutualism he meant the organization of society on an egalitarian basis. Although he was infamous for declaring (in What Is Property?) that “property is theft,” he did not advocate communism. He attacked the use of property as a means of exploiting the labour of others, but he regarded “possession”—the right of a worker or group of workers to control the land or tools necessary for production—as an essential bulwark of liberty. He therefore envisioned a society formed of independent peasants and artisans, with factories and utilities run by associations of workers, all united by a system of mutual credit founded on people's banks. In place of the centralized state—the enemy of all anarchists—Proudhon suggested a federal system of autonomous local communities and industrial associations, bound by contract and mutual interest rather than by laws, with arbitration replacing courts of justice, workers' management replacing bureaucracy, and integrated education replacing academic education. Out of such a network would emerge a natural social unity that would make the existing order seem “nothing but chaos, serving as a basis for endless tyranny.” In The Political Capability of the Working Classes—his final, posthumously published work—Proudhon argued that liberation was the task of the workers themselves. He thereby laid the intellectual foundations of a movement that rejected democratic and parliamentary politics in favour of various forms of direct action.
In the 1860s Proudhon's working-class followers, unlike Proudhon himself, did not accept the name anarchist; instead, they preferred to call themselves Mutualists, after a working-class secret society to which Proudhon had belonged in Lyons during the 1830s. In 1864, shortly before Proudhon's death, a group of Mutualists joined with British trade unionists and European socialists exiled in London to found the International Workingmen's Association (the First International). Within the International, the Mutualists were the first opponents of Karl Marx and his followers, who advocated political action and the seizure of the state in order to create a proletarian dictatorship. Marx's most formidable opponents, however, were not the Mutualists but the followers of Bakunin, who entered the International in 1868 after a long career as a political conspirator.
Bakunin had been a supporter of nationalist revolutionary movements in various Slav countries. In the 1840s he had come under the influence of Proudhon, and by the 1860s, when he entered the International, he had not only founded his own proto-anarchist organization—the Social Democratic Alliance, which had a considerable following in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the Rhône valley of France—but had modified Proudhonian teachings into a doctrine later known as collectivism. Bakunin accepted Proudhon's federalism and his insistence on the need for working-class direct action, but he argued that the modified property rights Proudhon allowed were impractical. Instead, he suggested that the means of production should be owned collectively, though he still held that each worker should be remunerated only according to the amount of work he actually performed. The second important difference between Bakunin and Proudhon lay in their concepts of revolutionary method. Proudhon believed it was possible to create within existing society the mutualist associations that could replace it; he therefore opposed violent revolutionary action. Bakunin, declaring that “the passion for destruction is also a creative urge,” refused to accept a piecemeal approach; a violent revolution, sweeping away all existing institutions, was in his view the necessary prelude to the construction of a free and peaceful society.
Although the individualism and nonviolence implicit in Proudhon's vision have survived in peripheral currents of the anarchist tradition, Bakunin's stress on collectivism and violent revolutionary action dominated mainstream anarchism from the days of the First International down to the destruction of anarchism as a mass movement at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
The First International was itself destroyed by the conflict between Marx and Bakunin, a conflict rooted as much in the contradictory personalities of the two leaders as in their rival doctrines—revolution by a disciplined party versus revolution by the spontaneous insurgence of the working class, respectively. When the International finally broke apart at the Hague congress in 1872, Bakunin's followers were left in control of the working-class movements in the Latin countries—Spain, Italy, southern France, and French-speaking Switzerland—and these movements were to remain the principal bases of anarchism in Europe. In 1873 the Bakuninists set up their own International, which lasted as an active body until 1877; during this period its members finally accepted the name anarchist rather than Mutualist.
Bakunin died in 1876. His ideas had been developed in action as well as in writing, for he was the hero of many barricades, prisons, and meetings. His successor as ideological leader was Peter Kropotkin, who had renounced the title of prince when he became a revolutionary in 1872. Kropotkin is more celebrated for his writing than for his actions, though in his early years he led an eventful career as a revolutionary militant, which he described in a fine autobiography, Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1899). Under the influence of Russian revolutionary populist thought as well as a comrade such as the French geographer Élisée Reclus (a former disciple of the French utopian socialist Charles Fourier), Kropotkin developed a variant of anarchist theory known as anarchist communism. Kropotkin and his followers went beyond Bakunin's collectivism, arguing not only that the means of production should be owned cooperatively but that there should be complete communism in terms of distribution. This theory revived the scheme described in Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), involving common storehouses from which everyone would be allowed to take whatever he wished on the basis of the formula “From each according to his means, to each according to his needs.” In The Conquest of Bread (1892), Kropotkin sketched a vision of a revolutionary society organized as a federation of free communist groups. He reinforced this vision in Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution (1902), where he used biological and sociological evidence to argue that cooperation is more natural and usual than competition among both animals and human beings. In his Fields, Factories, and Workshops (1899) he developed ideas on the decentralization of industry appropriate to a nongovernmental society. In recognition of his scholarship, Kropotkin was invited to write an article on anarchism for the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Source: Anarchism." Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2013.