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do anarchists use the word "democracy" in their propaganda?

+2 votes
ignoring the definition of democracy (which is sort of nebulous), what are the pros and cons of saying that you struggle for democracy vs. struggle for anarchy? for the purpose of propaganda, is it beneficial to cast practiced anarchy as "real" democracy?
asked May 23, 2016 by seraph9888 (330 points)

5 Answers

+2 votes

i don't use the word. it doesn't seem beneficial or interesting to me. and most people i talk with would probably only get more confused by what i say if i referred to "democracy" as something i desire.

if i refer to anything as "struggle", i usually say i struggle against the so-called authorities attempting to coerce me. i struggle with those who attempt to reinforce morality and authority upon me. i struggle with letting go of any "authority" granted to me. and i struggle to listen to and act more intently toward my creative urges against the morality and institutional forces i encounter. i don't feel any obligation or inclination to say something "positive".

i don't think of how i describe myself or my views as "propaganda", although i often think other people might interpret it that way.

answered May 23, 2016 by bornagainanarchist (7,850 points)
+2 votes

I don't like the term 'democracy' so I don't use it much, except as a pejorative. I barely use the word 'anarchist' to describe my life-activity. We do live in near-permanent conditions of semi-hysteria regarding anyone who refuses to genuflect completely to authority. It's on the road to 'mental illness' as the APA's DSM-5 (or the Manual for Therapeutic Moral Enforcement) has it.

That being said, I don't live the lives of others. Their conditions, therefore, cannot be mine, and I do my utmost not to judge them from afar. It may very well be that anarchy-as-democracy can reach certain people, particularly those you may care for, in ways other verbiage cannot. I usually don't hold court, much less pal around with, folks who take this type of lingo seriously. And I don't tend to proselytize either. So, an opening for this kind of 'propaganda' doesn't avail itself often for me.

Lastly, with the conformity of thinking/outlook via techie social-mediation I perceive, the definitions and parameters of the allowable are hemming into a bathtub-sized Charybdis with all the force of the latter. This, of course, plays into my 'whys' of where I speak 'politically, who I talk to, and when...

answered May 23, 2016 by AmorFati (7,780 points)

"We do live in near-permanent conditions of semi-hysteria regarding anyone who refuses to genuflect completely to authority. It's on the road to 'mental illness' as the APA's DSM-5 (or the Manual for Therapeutic Moral Enforcement) has it."

lol....i often try to contemplate peoples mental states and the "general state of things" or whatever....i generally can't come to any strong conclusion. The one thing that always bothers me about people is that due to mass society, there's very little room for intimacy or honesty. I'm just happy that I can insulate myself from them to the extent i do and get what i need....because from experience i would either be pissed off, irritated, and or depressed all the time if i couldn't...

+3 votes
some anarchists absolutely use democracy not just "in their propaganda," but in their analysis of a proper anarchist society. usually direct democracy is their preference - with one vote to each person (and the concomitant assumption that all people know and care equally about all decisions...)

cindy milstein and other bookchinites are quite attached to this analysis, for example.


1. you can bypass (as AF says) hysteria associated with the word anarchy

2. you can ease into more complicated conversations by associating the things that people generally like about the word democracy (whether or not you think they actually go with democracy) with other concepts too

2. is a con, as well. sometimes the jarring of people's assumptions is helpful to have them understand that something new is possible/desirable.

other cons

1. monitoring our own language makes us feel less connected or authentic with people

3. attempting to smuggle concepts under the camouflage of accepted words can reinforce the valuation of those words. ie if we're saying democracy is a good thing - just define it in this different way, people are likely to leave the conversation just having heard that democracy is a good thing. so we could actually be strengthening people's bias towards a concept that we disagree with.

post script: any question about what terminology to use easily turns into (or already is) a question about principle vs connection (for lack of a better word). it seems easiest to connect with other people when you use terms they understand and when you seem to agree with them. but it's also true that those connections seems (or can become) the most shallow kind of relationship. but sometimes relationships need a longer curve to intimacy than other times.

i am most prone to stand on principle, and that's not uncommon for certain kinds of anarchists, but it's easy to argue that that is based on a kind of alienation from others that this society promotes, and not particularly healthy.
answered May 24, 2016 by dot (50,920 points)
edited May 24, 2016 by dot
This sort of reminds me of a horrible conversation I had with some born-again xtian back in college. He cornered me and said "Is evolution a theory or a fact?" I asked him to clarify what he meant by "evolution" and "theory" (I didn't want to get into what constitutes a "fact"). I told him that I understood evolution to mean a change in the gene pool through time, which is observable and uncontroversial. I asked him if that was what he meant, or if he meant the theory of Darwinian natural selection as the mechanism for speciation. He just gave me a blank stare and repeated his absurd talking-point fake question.

The problem with using a term like democracy is that it means so many different things to different people. Unraveling the sentimentality attached to its use requires a lot of historical and philosophical analysis that many people simply don't want to engage in.

Deciding whether or not to fight about the word is dependent on who's talking, and what kind of democracy they're talking about. In this presidential election year, discussing the bureaucratic obstacles to the much-touted "one person one vote" conception might be a good way to begin a critique of a particular form of democracy. Bringing up the shortcomings of majority vs minority rule could be a good tactic at other times.

The problem with the pro-democracy anarchist tendency is that they often require so many rhetorical twists to make their points that the discourse becomes cumbersome and convoluted. It also inevitably makes them sound like liberals.
+1 vote
i have some agreement with each of the other answers to this question.

i personally do not think of democracy as anarchistic, in any sense that lines up with my own desires for anarchy. the only time i use the word is in response to those promoting it. (or in ridicule/sarcasm). in my view, participation in democracy does not allow for individual freedom. it is a required submission to "the will of the people" (whether that is a majority, plurality, whatever), which is rarely going to coincide with my own. it is anti-liberatory, from this anarchistic perspective.

some more socially (mass) oriented folks who identify as anarchist might see direct democracy as a positive value/objective.

there are many anarchist critiques of democracy to be found (a simple starting point might be https://theanarchistlibrary.org/search?query=democracy).
answered May 24, 2016 by funkyanarchy (10,290 points)
+1 vote
I don't use the term democracy much and have difficulties understanding how democracy and anarchism is compatible. Democracy literally mean rule of the people or popular government. Usually with democracy it goes down to an A or B option and whichever option that's picked will alienate the individual from their decision to choose and from themselves. So, I don't struggle for it.

I see people on anarchists forums use the term often and imply it's a core aspect to anarchism, but never really explain what they mean by democracy without using the term in their definition.

I don't know what you mean by "struggle for anarchy," but can say that that's a more day to day thing on a personal level. At least for me, that is.
answered May 27, 2016 by human (3,800 points)
edited May 27, 2016 by human