What is Anarchy?
Anarchy is the opposition to authority, the rejection of hierarchy and the unending struggle for autonomy and self-determination.
Anarchy is above all a practice, not a theory. It is about actively working to end authoritarian relationships wherever they exist, and build non-authoritarian alternatives. It is not about trying to prescribe a way of life for an imagined place and time, and imagined people. It is for real people and dealing with real problems.
Anarchy is a living and breathing praxis that we incorporate into our everyday lives. A personal stance against authority that informs all our decisions and thus shapes the trajectory of our existence.
There is no end-goal to anarchy. It is an ongoing fight against hierarchical systems and the authority figures that construct them.
Anarchy is a desire for freedom from tyranny. Anarchy is countless generations of disparate people with the drive to be freer than they are under the systems that forcibly govern them.
Here are some of those people.
Anarchy is the thing we want. It is the Beautiful Idea. It is the entirely impractical idea that we can be, and must insist on being, totally free. From domination, of course, but also from mundanity and morality. It is the id to the super-ego of society and its shaming, fear-instilling humiliations and self-inflicted limitations.
Anarchy is an act of faith—a leap into the unknown—and a totally sober proposition. It is an explosion and the simple things we do unconsciously. It is something that predates civilization and cannot be tamed by cities, governments, exchange, or politics.
Anarchy is anarchy, it is both organization (along completely different lines than the ones that currently exist on a broad level), and chaos. It is each of us having the ability to determine our own lives and the ways that we relate to others, from our most intimate relationships to the more far-flung. Anarchy is impossible and it is that very impossibility that makes it desirable. As desirable as the eventual lover or the water at the end of a long hike. As impossible as independence, autonomy, and collaboration among equals.
Long Live Anarchy!
Anarchy describes a particular type of situation, one in which either authority does not exist or its power to control is negated. Such a situation guarantees nothing—not even the continued existence of that situation, but it does open up the possibility for each of us to start creating our lives for ourselves in terms of our own desires and passions rather than in terms of social roles and the demands of social order. Anarchy is not the goal of revolution; it is the situation which makes the only type of revolution that interests me possible—an uprising of individuals to create their lives for themselves and destroy what stands in their way. It is a situation free of any moral implications, presenting to each of us the amoral challenge to live our lives without constraints.
Since the anarchic situation is amoral, the idea of an anarchist morality is highly suspect. Morality is a system of principles defining what constitutes right and wrong behavior. It implies some absolute outside of individuals by which they are to define themselves, a commonality of all people that makes certain principles applicable to everyone.
As opponents of control, we should not assume an adversarial position (like the forces of counter-control), nor identify ourselves with the oppressed (the controlled); rather, we should situate ourselves within the matrix of anarchy, and become uncontrollables. Only then can we develop a liberatory praxis, which simultaneously promotes the disintegration of the entire control complex, and facilitates others to reintegrate within the creative potentialities of anarchy. We should be neither demonic, nor humanist, but anarchic.
Our divine principle should not be deistic power, or demonic, Dionysian energies, or human community, but positive and creative chaos (a natural “order” which the advocates of order designate as disorder). Chaos is homologous with ecological order, and social ecology constitutes the specifically human component within that order. It is from this position that we must approach those existential problems that remain so troubling.
If anarchy does not have a road map then we (as anarchists) are free to work together. Our projects might not be of the same scale as the general strike, or even the halting of business-as-usual in a major metropolitan area, but they would be anarchist projects.
An anarchy without road map or adjectives could be one where the context of the decisions that we make together will be of our own creation rather than imposed upon us. It could be an anarchy of now rather than the hope of another day. It would place the burden of establishing trust on those who actually have a common political goal (the abolition of the state and capitalism) rather than on those who have no goal at all or whose goal is antithetical to an anarchist one.
An anarchy without road map or adjectives does not ignore difference but instead places it in the context that it belongs in. When we are faced with a moment of extreme tension, when everything that we know appears about to change, then we may choose different forks in the road. Until that time anarchists should approach each other with the naïvete that we approach the world with. If we believe that the world can change and could change in a radical direction from the one traveled the past several thousand years then we should have some trust in others who desire the same things.
The goals of anarchy don’t include replacing one ruling class with another, neither in the guise of a fairer boss or as a party. This is key because this is what separates anarchist revolutionaries from Maoist, socialist, and nationalist revolutionaries who from the onset do not embrace complete revolution. They cannot envision a truly free and equalitarian society and must to some extent embrace the socialization process that makes exploitation and oppression possible and prevalent in the first place.
Our anarchy is an anarchy of abundance. It must be in order to survive against the power of our enemies. We are forcing the horizons wide open to the imagination. We believe there can (and must) be a world that has both wilderness and cities—a planet where people live in hunting-gathering tribes and in the diverse neighborhoods of cities. Where the goals of both groups are in harmony. There is enough creativity in our minds, enough courage in our souls, and enough passion in our hearts to accommodate both green and urban anarchy. No desire need succeed by destroying the other.
-Curious George Brigade
Anarchy is positioned to articulate —not a program— but a number of revolutionary themes with contemporary relevance and resonance. It is unambiguously anti- political, and many people are anti- political. It is hedonistic, and many people fail to see why life is not to be lived enjoyably if it is to be lived at all. It is “individualistic” in the sense that if the freedom and happiness of the individual —ie, each and every really existing person, every Tom, Dick and Murray —is not the measure of the good society, what is? Many people wonder what’s wrong with wanting to be happy. Post-leftist anarchy is, if not necessarily rejective, then at least suspicious of the chronically unfulfilled liberatory promise of high technology. And maybe most important of all is the massive revulsion against work, an institution which has become more and more important, and oppressive, to people outside academia who actually have to work. Most people would rather do less work than attend more meetings. Post-leftist anarchists mostly don’t regard our times one-dimension- ally, as either a “decadent, bourgeoisified era” of “social reaction” or as the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. The system, unstable as ever, never ceases to create conditions which undermine it. Its self-inflicted wounds await our salt. If you don’t believe in progress, it’ll never disappoint you and you might even make some progress.
By taking for our watchword anarchy, in its sense of no-government, we intend to express a pronounced tendency of human society. In history we see that precisely those epochs when small parts of humanity broke down the power of their rulers and reassumed their freedom were epochs of the greatest progress, economical and intellectual. Be it the growth of the free cities, whose unrivalled monuments —free work of free associations of workers—still testify of the revival of mind and of the well-being of the citizen; be it the great movement which gave birth to the Reformation —those epochs witnessed the greatest progress when the individual recovered some part of his freedom. And if we carefully watch the present development of civilised nations, we cannot fail to discover in it a marked and ever-growing movement towards limiting more and more the sphere of action of government, so as to leave more and more liberty to the initiative of the individual. After having tried all kinds of government, and endeavoring to solve the insoluble problem of having a government ‘which might compel the individual to obedience, without escaping itself from obedience to collectively,’ humanity is trying now to free itself from the bonds of any government whatever, and to respond to its needs of organisation by the free understanding between individuals prosecuting the same common aims.
There are a million ways to go about attacking the interconnected structures of power and oppression, and creating anarchy. Only you can decide which paths to take. It’s important not to let your efforts be diverted into any of the channels that are built into the system to recuperate and neutralize resistance, such as requesting change from a political party rather than creating it yourself, or allowing your efforts and creations to become commodities, products, or fashions. To free ourselves, we need to regain control over every aspect of our lives: our culture, our entertainment, our relationships, our housing and education and healthcare, the way we protect our communities and produce food — everything. Without getting isolated in single-issue campaigns, figure out where your own passions and skills lie, what problems concern you and your community, and what you can do yourself. At the same time, stay abreast of what others are doing, so you can build mutually inspiring relationships of solidarity.
The State had now disappeared from my conception of society; there remained only the application of Anarchism to those vague yearnings for the outpouring of new ideals in education, in literature, in art, in customs, social converse, and in ethical concepts. And now the way became easy; for all this talking up and down the question of wealth was foreign to my taste. But education! As long ago as I could remember I has dreamed of an education which should be a getting at the secrets of nature, not as reported through another’s eyes, but just the thing itself; I had dreamed of a teacher who should go out and attract his pupils around him as the Greeks did of old, and then go trooping out into the world, free monarchs, learning everywhere —learning nature, learning man, learning to know life in all its forms, and not to hug one little narrow spot and declare it the finest one on earth for the patriotic reason that they live there, and here I picked up Wm. Morris’ News from Nowhere, and found the same thing. And there were the new school artists in France and Germany, the literateurs, the scientists, the inventors, the poets, all breaking way from ancient forms. And there were Emerson and Channing and Thoreau in ethics, preaching the supremacy of individual conscience over the law,— indeed, all that mighty trend of Protestantism and Democracy, which every once in a while lifts up its head above the judgments of the commonplace in some single powerful personality.
That indeed is the triumphant word of Anarchism: it comes as the logical conclusion of three hundred years of revolt against external temporal and spiritual authority—the word which has no compromise to offer, which holds before us the unswerving ideal of the Free Man.
-Voltairine de Cleyre
Anarchy, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property, from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.