Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Thoughts on Anarchism

Recently, the Royal Bank in Ottawa's Glebe was firebombed by a group of radical anarchists. I'm not certain that radical is a necessary qualifier here because an anarchist is, by definition, a radical. After all, they believe in the elimination of the state.

If, as one of my mentors effectively argues, all political ideologies are akin to religions, then Anarchism finds its salvation in the elimination in what it views as the chief purveyor of evil: authority. But how would a society bereft of authority function? A recent letter to the editor by a local anarchist in the Ottawa Citizen claimed that it would be a highly organized society of equals.

When I read this, overactive imagination that I have, I had a vision of a Parliament of 33 million MPs all gibbering at once. This is probably not what the letter-writer intended, but how can a highly organized society be defined except as a form of government? How can a leaderless society make functional decisions?

I've heard some anarchists argue that there would be highly localized clusters of voluntary associations based on mutual needs. Of course, this ideal would depend on the needs of one of these clusters not clashing with the needs of another cluster. In effect, you'd have a sort of tense tribalism and it would not be long before two tribes clashed. It would be doubtful that any such group would retain their collective kumba-ya Anarchism without a leader emerging in the face of violence. In effect, you would have people united in fear under one leader in a mini-government. An area governed this way would quickly come to resemble feudal Europe at its worst, or modern-day Somalia.

Back to square one for the anarchists.

The biggest problem with Anarchism, in my mind, is that it, like Communism, idealizes humans. It seems to believe that once society is restructured then evil will be eliminated and humans will stop acting like, well, humans. The source of evil, for these thinkers, is not within humanity but within the structures around humanity.

Anarchists, if they were ever to gain wide popularity and revolt, would face the same dilemma as the various communists have: what do we do with those who won't accept our platform? As in Communism, the anarchists calling for tolerance would be quickly drowned out by the more ruthless among them. It would not be long before all of the obstacles and setbacks would be heaped at the feet of those enemies that opposed the anarchist ideal. The anarchists, when things did not work out, would be forced to form a transitional government until all of their ideals fell into place.

Now, the anarchist writing to the Ottawa Citizen's editor made it clear he was non-violent. The most radical thing he has ever done was probably collectivizing a coffee shop or bakery. However, in any revolution it seems that it is the most radical and the most ruthless who gain control. Those anarchists with Utopian dreams of a peaceful stateless society of hemp-wearing hippies would be shuffled to the side. Meanwhile, charismatic authoritarians would seize the opportunity to snatch the very power that anarchists loathe so much. "Just in the interim," they would assure their concerned friends.

The evil, my anarchist friends, is not just outside of us, it's within. Trying to destroy the corporations and governments will do nothing but create further evil. The corporations and governments are not wholly evil or wholly good: they're both - just like us. We should strive for justice, for the triumph of the good, but this involves restoration and surgery, not destruction and murder.


Suzanne said...

I tend to agree. Good analysis JP.

John den Boer said...

Thanks Suzanne.

Who deh?