Anarchy – A recipe for disaster, or the only choice left for humanity?

27 July 2016

“Anarchy in South Sudan: Mass looting of aid to leave many hungry and desperate”

“Former police chief says we are on the precipice of anarchy”

“Anarchy in the UK: Brexit leaves disunited kingdom flailing in every direction”

Society has been conditioned to read these newspaper headlines by interpreting anarchy as chaos and disorder. And in the context of these three events (political vacuums in South Sudan causing tribal clashes, the death of police officers in Baton Rouge, and the exit of the UK from the European Union), the perception seems fairly close to the real situation on the ground.

However, when one looks at the true roots of the word “anarchy”, one finds a rather interesting dynamic, especially when juxtaposed against a word that has a far more positive connotation, “democracy”. There is the modern definition of “anarchy being a state of disorder due to the absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling system” with synonyms such as mayhem, misrule, chaos, nihilism and turmoil. But if one analyses the origins of the word anarchy, it derives from the ancient Greek “Anarchia” referring to a person or society without rulers or leaders, and defined more specifically as “without authority”. No reference is made to chaos or disorder, or any positive or negative outcomes of this “leaderless” approach to the social order. The globalist elite, in conjunction with mainstream media and a tightly controlled education system, frequently misuse the words anarchy and anarchism, thus breeding misunderstanding of their true meaning. Of course this process of misunderstanding is not just a dog barking on one side of the fence. Many nations both past and present that have considered a monarchy, or even theocracy as indispensable have used words such as “republic” or “democracy” to imply chaos and confusion. This desire to maintain the current state, often by those with a vested interest in said current state, naturally implies that opposition to the system of choice cannot work in practice and will only lead to disorder.

We’ll explore this misunderstanding later in this article, but for now let’s take a closer look at democracy (generally accepted to be the antithesis of anarchism), which is loosely defined as “a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting”. Other key elements of democracy as we have come to understand it are a guarantee of basic human rights, separation of powers between the institutions of the state, freedom of speech and opinion, religious liberty, a general and equal right to vote, and good governance. It only takes a brief glance around us, not just here in South Africa, but worldwide to realise that democracy is failing on almost every one of these key elements. It is by no means the perfect form of government, and Winston Churchill famously said that “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” He made this speech on the 11th of November 1947, and nearly 70 years later we are still no closer to a societal model that puts the interests of the people first. Abuse of power and state resources (such as the current attempts at state capture here at home in South Africa), a watering down of people’s rights to freedom and self-determination (the TSA Regulations in the USA are a good example of this), the removal of religious liberties (e.g. the abolition of rights of Muslim girls in France to wear the hijab to school), a skewed sense of humanity (true equality has not been achieved evidenced by the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots) and a world in a constant state of conflict (this article is too short to even list the number of conflict zones worldwide) is proof that the status quo needs to change. The human race cannot continue down this road if it expects to achieve a level of freedom and awakening that everybody desires, and so richly deserves. A world of love, compassion, empathy and respect is within our grasp, but drastic transformation is needed if we are to achieve these lofty goals. Democratically elected leaders have by and large been ineffective at putting the true needs of the people first, and this has become glaringly worse as more and more countries have adopted the democratic model. Most experts agree that there are only a handful of truly functional democracies worldwide and this is despite close to 50% of the world’s nations having democratically elected governments.

One of the greatest challenges to an effective, highly functional democracy can be found through an understanding of Elite Theory. This theory attempts to define and clarify the various power relationships within our modern societies. This theory, created and expanded on by great minds such as Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Floyd Hunter, G. William Domhoff and others observes that the overwhelming bulk of power within humanity is held by a small minority, made up of members of an economic elite and networks of policy controllers, and that this power is mostly independent of a country’s democratic elections process. Members of this elite, through their positions of influence in corporations, financial support of various foundations, and memberships of think tanks and policy discussion groups (such as the Bilderberg Group) are able to influence the policy decisions of companies, industries, countries, and ultimately the entire globe. Elite theorists argue that true democracy cannot be realized within a capitalistic spectrum, and most tend to lean towards a more socialist approach.

So if, as Winston Churchill said democracy is really just the best of a handful of bad options, then what other choices are there? I’d like to propose an idea that has started gaining traction the world over, and its straight back to anarchy as explored earlier. Not the anarchy that the modern definition puts forward of a chaotic, disorderly and confused end to structured government, but rather anarchism, which aims to create a society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals, opposed to all forms of hierarchical control, be it state control, or the control of capital. Anarchists believe that not only is the current form of democratic government harmful to individuals and their sense of individuality, but is completely unnecessary. Anarchism isn’t just anti-state, it is anti-hierarchy. Brian Morris said it best in his book ‘Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed’ when he advanced the idea that “anarchy comes from the Greek, and essentially means ‘no ruler.’ Anarchists are people who reject all forms of government or coercive authority, all forms of hierarchy and domination. They are therefore opposed to what the Mexican anarchist Flores Magon called the ‘sombre trinity’ — state, capital and the church. Anarchists are thus opposed to both capitalism and to the state, as well as to all forms of religious authority. But anarchists also seek to establish or bring about by varying means, a condition of anarchy, that is, a decentralised society without coercive institutions, a society organised through a federation of voluntary associations”.

By being a philosophy against hierarchy, anarchism is thus opposed to any inequality of power or privileges between individuals. Some of you might be thinking, this sounds a heck of a lot like socialism, and we know what socialism’s track record has been. But anarchism is most likely a closer relative of libertarianism, or at a stretch, social libertarianism, where the government is there to serve as an umpire, settling disputes, providing for national defence, and establishing order in society, and nothing more than that. The fundamental difference being anarchists are against any form of hierarchical power, full stop. A libertarian government is one that does not encroach on the natural rights of its citizens, but who decides on what those natural rights are? Anarchists believe that natural rights and civil liberties can only be decided upon and enforced collectively, with judgement and execution conducted by society itself, and not by members of a hierarchical authority structure whose aim is to maintain their ambits of power, at the expense of the people who granted them that power in the first place.

Now, before you shout out that I’ve taken complete leave of my senses, let me make it clear that although I consider myself to be an anarchist, I am perhaps more of an anarcho-capitalist, with a belief in free market capitalism, as opposed to state capitalism. Essentially, a passive, non-violent, voluntary exchange of goods and services, rather than a corruption laced collusion between business and government that ultimately undermines the free market (commonly referred to in South Africa as crony capitalism). Would it really be that difficult to move towards a point of worker and community controlled enterprises? Is there any real reasons why a group of 1,000 workers couldn’t pool their resources to leverage some ownership in the factories in which they work? What about the abolition of personal tax, taxes that are overwhelmingly used by the organs of state to further empower themselves militarily and financially, in an attempt to maintain their stronghold?

Noam Chomsky, a controversial figure at the best of times, described anarchism as “a tendency that is suspicious and sceptical of domination, authority and hierarchy… It asks whether those systems are justified. It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them… If they cannot justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just”. But I believe it goes beyond that. Perhaps the single guiding principle that humanity should be focusing on is “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. The use of violence, or even the threat of violence is always illegitimate. Intellectuals have greater influence than those who command obedience by threat of force.

Anarchism has its roots in the working class struggle, through a resistance to authority, oppression, and exploitation, but the spark that started the fire was our desire to lead a life that embraces and rejoices in our humanity, where we have the time and energy to live freely, love completely, play wholeheartedly, and achieve greatly. Has democracy brought us closer to achieving these ideals, or has it put these ideals even further out of our grasp, and into the hands of a privileged few?

I believe all people are anarchists at heart, whether risk managers, internal auditors, doctors, motor mechanics, soldiers, the unemployed, the homeless, young or old, black or white, rich or poor (of course some of the wealthy and connected may have buried elements of their anarchist tendencies in favour of some gains of a more capitalistic nature). We are all striving to be the best human beings that we can be, and if this is to happen on a global scale, we need to remove any obstacles that can hamper this growth, allowing every individual to reach their maximum potential if they endeavour to do so and the opportunities present themselves, regardless of their class, colour, religion or social standing.

“Do you want to make it impossible for anyone to oppress his fellow-man? Then make sure that no one shall possess power.” Mikhail Bakunin –The Political Philosophy of Bakunin

Author – Paul van der Struys

May 2016

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