Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Are there any "real" anarchists?

0 votes
Surely to be an anarchist instead of an anarchist sympathiser; a person would need to be (by definition) living the life of an anarchist?  How this is possible under a capitalist ideology with a representative democracy I would be interested to know.  I have a lot of sympathy for anarchist ideas but I cringe when people call themselves an anarchist when clearly they would like to be an anarchist but this will only be possible under anarchism surely?

asked Feb 17, 2011 by anonymous

3 Answers

+2 votes
Anarchism is a discrete socio-political philosophy whose adherents propose that governments (and by logical extension, all institutionalized hierarchies of domination -- like those based on gender, race, sexuality, physical ability, you know the list...) are not only pernicious, but destructive of community; that human beings, left to our own devices, are perfectly capable of creating and maintaining positive relationships based on voluntary cooperation, mutual aid, and solidarity.

Anarchists are those who profess this philosophy. The social conditions of that philosophy need not exist in order to profess one's belief or support for that philosophy.

You seem to be inferring that anarchists can only exist in a social environment without the state and government, whereas I would argue that a condition of non-state existence (anarchy) does not require any anarchists at all.

For 99% of human history, there was no state, no institutionalized mechanism of class domination. In the absence of government, people act in their own interests in direct, unmediated relationships with each other in order take care of their individual and collective needs. If we dispassionately examine examples of self-organization outside a representational framework (especially during revolutionary moments like the Paris Commune of 1871, Barcelona 1936, or semi-revolutionary places like the barrios of Argentina, the jungles of Chiapas, and Tienanmen or Tahrir Square), we will see that such self-organization takes place regardless of the presence -- or absence -- of anarchists. Yet anarchists easily recognize many of their ideas and philosophy being implemented. How would you explain that?

In response to your initial question, I have a question for you: what does "living the life of an anarchist" look like? If your assumption that this is only possible "under anarchism" then nobody knows what it looks like, and your question is meaningless. If, on the other hand, "living the life of an anarchist" means something akin to striving to create the conditions for the self-organization of all those who yearn for autonomy, voluntary cooperation, and mutual aid, then certainly there are plenty of anarchists; those who dissent from the status quo, agitate against capitalism and the state, organize projects that foster anarchist values, and otherwise engage in as many non-hierarchical relationships as possible are certainly anarchists. What else would you call them?
answered Feb 17, 2011 by lawrence (18,030 points)
Lawrence said: "In response to your initial question, I have a question for you: what does "living the life of an anarchist" look like? If your assumption that this is only possible "under anarchism" then nobody knows what it looks like, and your question is meaningless."  

You answered on your question when you said: "For 99% of human history, there was no state, no institutionalized mechanism of class domination. In the absence of government, people act in their own interests in direct, unmediated relationships with each other in order take care of their individual and collective needs."

If, as you say, 99% of human history had no state etc, why do we have a state now?  If human nature is a state of mutual aid etc, why did it not last?  Anarchy was replaced slowly and over time the state is the latest of many evolutions.  Anarchy worked when humans had space from each other, low tech living, much less population, less suplus and a need to work together; perhaps things are different now
Dave, I think you need to do some reading on the origins of the state. I made no mention of "human nature"; that's a completely different discussion.

The state did not come into being "slowly and over time" in the same way that evolutionary adaptations do. Evolutionary adaptations are supposed to benefit the survival of a species through time. The state is a tool used by economic elites to consolidate their power over the plebs/peasants/workers; it is only purely beneficial to a small segment of the human species (more humans are killed in the name of and by states than any other mechanism) and could therefore be labeled non-adaptive in human evolutionary terms.

Perceiving the origins of the state as some natural phenomenon requires that you overlook a lot. As if the creation of the state had not been made with the wholesale political subjugation and military slaughter of populations, as if the creation of the state had not been met with fierce resistance in most places, as if the creation of the state had not been the concrete manifestation of class-based institutional economic hierarchies with the military might to enforce those hierarchies of domination and exploitation.

You have a couple things backwards: not-very-low tech items were created to accustom people to living in cities; dramatic population increase happened after the creation of cities; economic surplus was a requirement of urbanization. What does "a need to work together" have to do with anything? If you are talking about scale, then say so. People have always worked together.

Anarchists are interested in the extension of voluntary cooperation. The guiding principle is, if it's not voluntary, it's not worth doing. If you can wrap your mind around that fundamental distinguishing characteristic of anarchist philosophy, then the rest should be easier to understand. I'm thinking, however, based on the several questions and answers you've thrown around here, that you may not be that interested in anarchist ideas.
Hi Lawrence

Thanks for responding.

I would argue that authority over others evolved slowly over time via those, for example, who “believed” they were in communication with the gods etc believing they had some special powers.  (The people were complicit in that and are still, arguably, complicit today) eventually culminating in what exists today.  At one time we were anarchy and anarchy was us and we changed that relationship: that way of being.  If the State is not a natural phenonenom; that what is it?  Are humans natural or not?

Surely population depends on food, not cities? Population increased with food production leading to specialisation leading to cities?  Is mutual the same as voluntary in your opinion? I help you build your house (as you asked me for help) and you help me build mine, or is it, I help you to build your house (again, as you asked me for help) and you tell me to fuck off when I ask for your help as could be the case under being voluntary?

I am very interested in anarchy.  I question the ideas of the State too and all that human nature entails.  I don’t know everything and I don’t pretend to know everything which is why I ask questions.

Maybe some people prefer to be followers as oposed to being leaders (voluntary submission included): they do not want to take full responsibility for their decisions and can blame their leaders for whatever ills come their way?

Forcing anarchy upon people who would rather not have it is never going to work and would this be anarchy: anarchy be force/revolution?  If I want to live under The State, who are tell me that it is not in my best interests etc?  

Freedom in itself is not the be all and end all for some people.  So long as the shops have cheap food and there’s crap TV, many people are OK with that.  I know some of these people!  Not everybody views freedom in the way many anarchists do although many of them do very little about their lack of freedom other than moan a lot! And I'm not saying you're one of the moaners.

Anarchists seem to want anarchy as long as it is their kind of anarchy which brings in to question how the different forms of anarchism will not eventually, (perhaps sooner rather than later) descend into whoever has the best weapons?

I think that the number of people on the earth makes anarchy a harder realisation.  In principle, ananrchy makes sense to a lot of people; it's the people that fuck it up!
Authority over others is imposed. Your scenario of the rudiments of religion being to blame for some people relinquishing their autonomy is not supported by the relevant ethnographic literature. So-called shamans (or medicine (wo)men or witch doctors) are not priests in training; priests arise with the stratifications associated with the origins of class-based culture.

Your argument (such as it is) that humans are natural therefore all human constructions are natural is usually referred to as reductionist; it is absurd and completely flies in the face of intelligent discourse. Humans just go around creating all sorts of stupid, unnecessary, destructive tools, ideas, social practices, and since humans are part of the natural world, therefore all these harmful and destructive things are also natural. This is an offense to language. Just because you are capable of doing something, does that mean you should do it? You have removed any kind of agency or subjectivity from human action, making humans into instinctive beings, devoid of cognition, the ability to make choices, and otherwise interact in meaningful ways with other humans. This is a stellar example of either bad faith or a serious lack of intelligence.

Increased population does not cause increased food production. You have it backwards. With the move of parts of a given population into a centralized urban location, all those people are suddenly unable to grow food and must now rely on those who remain in the countryside to grow enough food for themselves as well as to provide for those who now live in cities. This is really elementary sociology/history.

Nobody is claiming that anarchists will force people to be free; that's the liberal program, initiated (at least in written form) by Rousseau. I have no idea where you might have picked up such a bizarre idea.

If you are a teenager, then you might be excused for tossing around such clearly un(in)formed ideas. But if you have had a decent enough education and are well past your twenties, then most of the the things you bring up as so-called questions as well as your poorly thought-out answers are truly uninspired and uninteresting.
Hi Lawrence,

I've enjoyed reading through this discussion. May I please make one suggestion though? Consider toning down your responses? It seems to me that Dave is asking valid questions here and has a genuine interest in hearing your answers; so why the condescending tone? We need to encourage open discourse here. I applaud the fact that Dave is on this site asking questions instead of sitting on his couch watching American Idol. It is a bit unfair to assert that if Dave "had a decent enough education..." then he would know better than to ask such questions. Who among us has had a decent education? We have all been "educated" by a system supported by the propoganda of the state. It is not easy to overcome the brain washing that is an integral part of such a system. So please...take it easy on Dave and others like him. Lets encourage enquiring minds to visit and learn from this site, not frighten them off with our supposed superiority.
I will not apologize for my tone. The initial questions asked were fair enough for someone who hadn't really thought about the application of an oppositional (anti)political philosophy to one's life. However, Dave's reactions to my response was actually filled with a lot of stupid - that is, unsubstantiated and clearly false - statements of his poorly thought-out ideas, for which I have little patience.

I didn't start condescending until my last response, and it comes from being confronted with Dave's stubborn adherence to false ideas derived from a ruling class education.

Sure it's better that Dave was here asking a few questions than watching TV, but I can't be held responsible for his inability to absorb answers he didn't want to see. If that is a sign of supposed superiority, it's only because I have been busy educating myself about radical history for the past thirty-odd years.

I would much rather discuss (calmly or heatedly) the substance of these topics instead of the tone with which they are delivered.
0 votes
It depends whether you judge people by the intentions behind their actions or the consequences arising from them (or both or neither I suppose). Hopefully anarchists intend to allow and nurture anarchic values, relationships, experiences, communities, etc. Likewise, hopefully anarchists also make reasonable attempts at doing everything in their agency to dismantle hierarchical power, distribute and discuss anarchic ideas and practices, and encourage others to realize their own and affirm them as they do so, culminating in some actual successes for anarchy in the real world.

Etymologically anarchy means both an opposition to, or a lack of rulers as a category (versus simply opposing the present rulers). To any thoughtful individual this obviously necessitates considering, "With what characteristics would I define ruling, and the opposition to it, and the lack of it, on individual and social levels?" We all might want to consider what practices distinguish between anarchists-by-intent and anarchists-by-consequence.

Whatever values you hold, I suggest orienting yourself around maximizing your impact in a responsible way and building relationships of solidarity, as well as applying a prefigurative praxis whenever possible ("freedom can't be given / you gotta take it / and make it your mission / to live every day like your vision of escapin' this system of enslavement to rich men / with actions and strategies / not wishful thinkin'" --"Police State" by Test Their Logik)

For a decent overview of dozens of anarchistic societies past and present, check out Peter Gelderloos' book "Anarchy Works" @ http://zinelibrary.info/anarchy-works-peter-gelderloos . You can download a pdf version of it for free there, or, y'know, throw him some change and get a print copy cuz he doesn't get bankrolled by MIT like Chomsky.

P.S. You might want to consider why you write something like "under anarchism". Do you desire an "anarchism" over you?
answered Feb 18, 2011 by AutumnLeavesCascade (9,030 points)
Skitter might have a point - some of your answers /are/ starting to sound a bit like advertisements for Anarchy Works... Just sayin'.
Um...should I also mention Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin or Anarchy In Action by Colin Ward? Lol. If you have other books that present comprehensive, up-to-date analyses of anarchistic societies, lay 'em on me. Don't see how giving someone one of my favorite books for free really harms them. I wouldn't even have mentioned donating except for that right around the time I saw the author speak a carload of the first print of his books got stolen along with folks from the Void Network's stuff. And it's not like I didn't give my own response, I only linked to that in case someone wanted a more elaborate one. In any case, I don't really care if it bothers someone that I posted it, because no one has to read it and anyone who has a problem with the book can post a question inviting criticism of it.
+1 vote
Just break all the laws and do what you feel you could under rule of anarchy, it realy isnt hard if you commit yourself. My friend for example (and alo what my parents and i hope to do) dosent pay for anything she steals food from major companys also for makeup and shoes, lives in radom places, for clothing she washes it at other peoples homes, food she works at a deli of some kind and they pay her 4 meals a day and ability to use their running water. Her life is quite fun but alot of work, i believe the only thing she has that she got "leagaly" is her bike.
answered May 1, 2012 by MollyTheAnarchist (1,520 points)