"What me, an narchist?"
When you hear the words "Anarchist" what is your first thought? Do you find yourself thinking of bomb-throwing, wild-eyed maniacs running loose without any regard for civility or order? This would characterize how the majority of people in our culture come to view anarchists and anarchism. Many feel threatened by anarchism without even realizing what it is in any sense. This feeling is mainly attributed to ignorance and the propagation of this stereotype by the media and the existing power structures. These powers that be exist mainly to control our lives under the guise of serving the public good. This charade is propped up by a hierarchical power structure where the voices of the people attempting to voice their outrage at this subversion are removed and summarily labeled radicals or enemies of the state. The more I learn of anarchism the greater respect I have for those who struggled and died to express and spread their beliefs. I have only recently begun to understand anarchism in a personal sense. I admittedly was a skeptic upon entering the Anarchy and the Internet class this Spring. What possible good could Anarchy be to the world, I thought. Then as I began to read some of the material by Godwin, and some of the other cynosures in anarchism, it began to take shape for me as a valid study in political thought. I learned that there are almost as many different factions to anarchism as there are number of people who believe in it. I was now ready to learn about this topic which suspiciously had had no mention in any of my previous history courses. After putting my suspicions aside, anarchism began to make sense.
As I mentioned, at first I did not understand anarchism but I was willing to listen. What was the need for anarchism? Professor Ward summed it up this way, "What gives anyone the right to tell you what to do..." At first I was taken back by this statement. I thought "What do you mean, what gives you the right?" I thought that if you are a "boss" then that is your right. But that is exactly what the anarchist contests. A boss is no more of a human being than the worker, hence has no moral or other superior authority over the "supervised." By being forced to comply with the demands of the boss, the worker suffers a mental oppression because his opinions or judgment are deemed by the existing power structure to be insignificant. However anarchy is more than a struggle for workersí rights. In general, anarchism is about freedom in the ultimate sense. No one person has more power or authority over another. People cooperate with each other on an equal and consensual basis. No decisions are made without great discussion and often consensus. Although this may seem at first to be impractical, it is possible. I feel that the majority of my skepticism arose initially because the impracticality of an anarchist system seemed insurmountable. However many communities that have existed in our nationís history did so living by anarchistic principles. Including the Oneida commune which has been successfully producing silverware for many years. Other examples includes Modern Times on Long Island, established in the 1850's, and Hopedale established in the 1840's. Both were anarchist communes that were located within the United States. Mondragon is an example of successful worker operated company located in Spain. Mondragon is a huge conglomeration which is worker owned, consisting of hundreds of smaller companies. They specialize in everything from engineering to fishing. Mondragon remains one of the most successful companies utilizing this system of worker control. Now as I mentioned, my tendencies have shifted to a more individualistic stance of anarchism. Many cooperatives and communes exist today and have been successful communities. Also, many worker owned companies are far more efficient and productive than their hierarchical counterparts. Proving that the workers have the ability within themselves to work efficiently without heavy-handed supervision. Worker owned companies are not a foreign concept however to us here in the United States. Companies such as United Airlines are employee owned, and continue to be very successful in its field. United Airlines' workers maintain shareholder control, meaning that incentives exist to be successful, but management isnít directly accountable to the workers which is a slight problem, but a sense of worker involvement still exists. Although many working within these companies may be ignorant that the concept of worker owned and operated companies in anarchistic. The fact is that hierarchical power has been done away with and the power remains now with each worker each with an equal voice.
My progression from skepticism to a partial believer of anarchy has mostly arisen because of the variety of doctrines within the realm of anarchistic belief. I have always considered myself to be an individualist. I had long been displeased with the standard two-party system. I then learned a little about libertarianism, but found it a bit too extreme. I basically found myself as an independent voter, not affiliated with any party, mainly to avoid mailings and requests for donations. With anarchy, one can be individualistic but maintain a social safety-net through a local network of friends in the community. This is very similar to the social structure of the Quakers. Decisions which affect the community are discussed in a town-hall format where a consensus is reached before action is taken. Let me explain how my evolution from skepticism came about. I learned that some of the basic tenets of anarchy include: society without hierarchy; moral responsibility based on natural law; abstention from electoral politics; the state is the determining influence on social, political, and economic structures; freedom and equality; separation between power and expertise; and finally voluntary association. I was surprised by this. I think my surprise arose because I found myself agreeing with many of these tenets. I think many others would likewise if they realized what anarchy is and not what others, including the media, tell them it is or is not.
My views lie mostly in line to the previous tenets of anarchism which I mentioned. I feel that only by being allowed freedom in making wise personal decisions can we truly be free. In a society with a hierarchical power structure this cannot be accomplished because we are always being told or forced to do things which seem counter to our intuition. This does not mean that we do not make informed decisions or deny what the "experts" have to say, simply a choice should exist for each individual to make rather than a law. That admittance of expert opinion is important because it is an important distinction to make. It is important because it separates the common link of power with expertise which often exists in a hierarchical society.
The second principle deals with moral responsibility based on natural law. I also feel that this very important idea also goes along with the idea of society without hierarchy in that morally one has the responsibility not to infringe upon the rights of others and to rely upon natural justice and moral judgment to prevail. People then become able to control behavior by reason, not authority. Freedom and equality are obviously things that we all strive for as intelligent beings. We want to prevent anyone from suffering oppression in any form, be it mentally, physically or socially based. Voluntary association is also an important aspect of anarchy because no one is forced to do anything against his or her will. If you have the choice to participate or not then you still maintain freedom. Obviously all of these tenets are closely interconnected. One cannot be a true anarchist without realizing a sense of morality, freedom, and trust that must exist in order for an anarchist society to be successful.
As the semester has progressed, Iíve learned more about anarchy than I would have ever learned on my own concerning this subject. I feel that it is a true shame that this subject is so dismissed by our society. The warped perception of anarchism is maintained because not enough people have the opportunity to be educated to all view points being presented. I am very pleased to say that I really learned something valuable this semester that had great personal worth. I will most definitely spread the truth and attempt to dispel the common rumors whenever possible. Itís important for all to remember to always keep your mind open.