(Part of a series.)
“What, then, are the objections? First, Anarchism is impractical, though a beautiful ideal. Second, Anarchism stands for violence and destruction, hence it must be repudiated as vile and dangerous. Both the intelligent man and the ignorant mass judge not from a thorough knowledge of the subject, but either from hearsay or false interpretation.” – Emma Goldman
Taking on my experience talking in libertarian and anarchist circles and reading literature in the milieu has given me some particular views on anarchism and anarchy as a societal state of being. While I have sympathies with the generally leftist parts of the libertarian movement, I find their mainstream views about anarchy and anarchism concerning. Of course, the general public can be forgivable, though the wider left and newcomers to the anarchist sphere tend to look at it in the lens of how current society works and how (in their view) it ought to be.
A particular pointer on understanding Anarchism will be assuming that anarchy is the negation of every established hubbub that keeps all of us from actualizing ourselves, including that “is and ought” lens. This series tackles and explains anarchy (or at least, a more general and “without-adjectives” view of it) in a more practical and (hopefully) welcoming context, with some anecdotes for good measure. We’ll work on that one pointer with the topics of group work (01), work vs leisure (02), what socialism means (03), the capitalism-socialism debate (04), borders, gatekeepers and barriers (05), charity and welfare (06), what identity means today (07), our worsening environment (08), and what anarchy might ideally or realistically look like (09).
This first chapter is going to use the idea of collective activity and group projects as a basis to explain anarchy in simple terms. Questions regarding its feasibility (in terms of logistics, things relating to human nature is pretty much handled upon by mutual-ayyde already) are going to be tackled in a later chapter.
So anarchy’s all about doing whatever the hell we want, right?
Before answering that, let me go on a bulky tangent about why group projects suck.
A general problem amongst group projects tends to be with people. Modern white collar work ethic tells us to be flexible with people and work in groups of whatever stature, in order to maintain/expand efficiency (essentially saying we are supposed to be nice and gel work with anyone as a team). This is furthered by team building, “making friends” policies and whatever the fuck the HR and Faculty wants to put out just to create the ideal work environment. On some cases it works well and mutual bonds develop, and on the other there’s lingering resentment over being forced to interact in social situations and dealing with toxic and unsavory individuals, from asshole bosses to dipshit co-workers and classmates.
Thus, the idea is that we should work with anyone at any time and (practically) have to deal with somebody else’s bullshit by recommendation of the head honcho. Of course, a typical person nowadays would say “well, that’s not bullshit.” But if the price of survival is persistent frustration over restrictive superiors and horrible people, shouldn’t we consider how impractical and nonsensical it is on hindsight?
There’s this old facebook meme that was lying around back in the early 10’s. It was a visual comparison of what a boss is and what a leader is. The meme describes a boss as someone, well, bossing over his subordinates, being a general asshole and acting like he holds their lives in their hands (well, in practice it kinda is). A leader is described as someone who acts with his subordinates, works with them as a team and guides them in their job.
The general and textbook definition of Anarchism is the “abolition of all unjust hierarchy”. The idea that one should be above the other (i.e power) is absolute bullshit and really someone has to deal with that. In this chapter’s context, the idea of “leaders > bosses” is a particular aspect that ties into anarchy. Toxic and bossy individuals within work groups exercise their power over people (this may sound bullshit but bear with me here) by being assholes over everyone else.
Yes, in an intrapersonal sense, basic Anarchism shits on the idea that you have to work with people that can be absolute pieces of garbage that needs to be kicked in the genitals for good measure. Anarchists, are in a sense, consistent individualists who believe that no person should be above another, and that things can get done working together without someone trying to talk over anyone. And that people who try to do so should—and ideally, shall—get their groins smashed with a baseball bat.
Anarchist ideals of “leaderlessness” or “masterlessness” are tied to the value of cooperating together, collaborating together, and scratching each other’s backs. If everyone in the team’s really into it, understands each other, has a stake into it, even if they aren’t exactly on the same page, they’d wing it. In terms of the organization, the leader(s) becomes not an imperious figure but a coordinating actor, working as a leg of this association of individuals (to be honest, anyone or everyone in that group can be that kind of person).
Being forced to work with anyone ties also with being forced to do anything (with anyone).
As of writing this, we currently have a scary Law professor who’s really pissed at the how our college teaches kids. He even finds it odd that our course has a subject like this (hint: we make commercials), so he uses the subject instead to teach us how to learn. The way he’s expresses that in our class—requiring us to read the required book and express what we recalled in our own words—is where I depart from that.
There’s nothing particularly wrong about knowing how to learn, but as a person who learned how to do things as how I do now by myself (like writing this long of an essay), we’re kinda being forced to learn. I learned more reading for myself without having to fear my grades being in danger. Similarly, groups I worked with for shits and giggles (mostly nerd stuff) have been more fruitful and ran its course as it should’ve.
Free association is a word that’s tend to be thrown out in discussions about anarchy, sometimes amongst more Libertarian and Individualist circles. It’s the freedom to choose whoever and wherever you want to be a part of and whoever you want to work with. You don’t have to join if you don’t want to, and you sure as hell might ignore someone you dislike. Mace them if they keep on coming to you or something. I don’t know.
I initially said association because essentially, collective work (like all productive activity), to the anarchist is ideally a voluntary act. Wiktionary talks of the root verb associate having two relevant meanings: joining with another or others with equal status, and following/accompanying another. In this context, the productive association is an activity of equals. It’s an open companionship where it may last at any time at any pace. It’s a bunch of energetic initiatives working together out of common interest.
This idea of productive activity in Anarchy is like a fun and actually continuing D&D session. It’s a voluntary social act where people with their own voices collaborate together to create an open ended story (the GM simply serves to set the tone and general framework). I could say that the session analogy is very much true of all activity in anarchy, but I’m getting too ahead of myself here.
There’s this one person I talked with who mentioned that anarchy is actually happening all the time, in small places and little exchanges. In-jokes and funny conversations with friends at a dinner party. Two people collaborating to make a work of art. Impromptu musical duets. Wikipedia in a good mood. Agreeing to do things for each other, trading card games, meetups of online communities, mutual gratitude, and the list goes on.
So anarchy’s all about doing whatever the hell we want, yes, but only while also respecting the agency of others. It can be as productive as it is destructive. We can do things and make things out of our own volition and pace, we can work with people as we please, and essentially we forge mutually beneficial and wholesome relationships.
Because god fucking forbid you have to be friends with an asshole, or that asshole is inadvertently you.
Your Freedom is My Freedom: The Premise of Anarchism by William Gillis
Anarchism as a Theory of Organization by Colin Ward
Are you an Anarchist? The Answer Might Surprise You by David Graeber