This is the first in an occasional series of posts on the various political perspectives of those involved in activism in the Bath/Bristol area. The views expressed are those of the respective authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Standing Stone.Follow @stonestanding
WHAT IS ANARCHISM?
Entire books and decades of research can be thrown at this question, but the underlying core is this: anarchism is a movement for social justice through freedom and equality, existing and evolving since the 17th Century, but with roots going even further back. Far from meaning “chaos”, the term anarchism derives from the Greek “Anarkos”, meaning “without rulers”.
Anarchism has always been a challenge by the underprivileged against the wealthy and the powerful who seek to oppress and exploit them. It fights to abolish governmental power, and the greed of the rich, both of which serve only the interests of the few at the expense of the everyone else.
Capitalism is the current system, a system that values profit above all else, and as a side-effect, creates poverty, inequality, terror, slavery, injustice, environmental destruction and war. One way that the ruling classes (politicians, bosses and wealthy landowners) maintain their rule is by creating false divisions – like race, sexuality, sex, ability, nationality, faith or age – and turning us against each other, so we can’t face the real enemy. As such, anarchists fight for a world without capitalism, in which resources are distributed according to need, not income. We know that governments only serve to prop up the ruling classes (be they capitalists or communist party dictators), so we also believe in running our workplaces and communities ourselves, with everyone having a say.
We as anarchists are not simply dreamers, and we do not believe in a ‘perfect’ society. However, we do believe that the current system and the sense of alienation and injustice that it brings is a major cause of misery, crime and violence the world over. Anarchists seek to build a free and class-less society built on respect and cooperation, not profit and greed, where each human is assured a good standard of life and is free to develop into a valued and valuable person, free from the anti-social constraints placed on them in today’s capitalist society. We are well aware that a better society cannot be won tomorrow, nor will it be won without struggle. But it is up to us ordinary people to determine every aspect of our lives in our own interests, not professional revolutionaries. Anarchism is the catalyst that spurs us to struggle against things as they are, and struggle for things that might be. It is a struggle worth fighting.
And so, we anarchists do not stand aside from others’ struggles for freedom and dignity, nor do we attempt to dominate it. We seek to contribute to it practically however we can, and to encourage the highest levels of ambition, fairness and solidarity.
In truth, strands of anarchism can differ greatly, proposing anything from extreme individualism to anarchist communism. Many anarchists oppose all forms of aggression, supporting self-defence or non-violence, whilst others support the use of necessary force, knowing that our would-be rulers won’t give up without a fight. The rich and powerful won’t offer the common people peace and prosperity no matter how nicely we ask, therefore we see little worth in getting involved with political parties nor their legal system.
Functioning anarchist and pre-anarchist societies in history are often covered up by their destroyers, but here follow some examples:
From 1649 to 1651, between 100-200 self-styled ‘Diggers’ formed environmentalist communes on wasteland areas in England, sharing equally and seeking religious freedom. Though they were helped and supported by locals, the various colonies were torn down by landowner violence.
The crews of the ‘Golden Age Of Atlantic Piracy’ formed 100 or more proto-anarchist fleeting shipboard democracies of various kinds for the mutineers and pirates of the Atlantic ocean and Caribbean Islands. A merry life and a short one, maybe, but Europeans, Americans and Africans made a brief expression of people power between 1690 and 1722.
From 1918 to 1921, anarchist and military mastermind Nestor Makhno helped the peasants of the Ukraine break away from Lenin’s twisted vision of a communist bureaucratic U.S.S.R. and become the Free Territories during the Russian Revolution. Almost the entire country adopted anarchist ideas before they were eventually crushed by a combination of capitalists, monarchists and the Bolshevik ‘Red Army’. The revolution itself involved over 100,000 anarchists, all of whom were betrayed when the minority Bolshevik Party manoeuvred themselves into power.
Spain was heavily influenced by anarchist ideas, particularly around the Catalonia and Andalusia regions, for the years 1936 to 1939. After hard fighting, the peasants’ dreams of freedom were put down by a combination of fascist rebel aggression led by General Franco, and by their supposed ‘ally’ Stalin and his plot to disarm the anarchist peasants fighting on the front line, and instead funnel weapons to communists based away from the key battles.
Freetown Christiania is a self-governed commune in Copenhagen where over 900 residents, including businesses, have flourished since 1971, at a squatted former military base. Unfortunately, controversy over its open cannabis trade and autonomy has now led the Danish government and police to begin seizing back the town.
On the night of the 1st January 1994, men and women from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (the EZLN) began a 12-day offensive, taking back seven cities in one night from the corrupt Mexican state. Demanding control of local resources and freedom from corporate and military abuse, the native Mexicans from the Chiapas region still have their independence, making much use of the internet to gather international support.
From 1996, the Piqueteros movement began in Argentina, blocking roads and occupying government buildings against state corruption, eventually forming Unemployed Workers Movements (MTDs) who distributed food, goods and Services during the 2001 economic crisis, and re-opened factories such as FaSinPat, boosting production and work standards vastly.
These and other experiments form individual threads in the tapestry of collective human liberation. Some are successful, some are less so, but each speaks the truth that power originates in the people, and they alone have, together, the right to wield it.
“It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.”
Buenaventura Durruti, Spanish anarchist, 1936
Article reproduced with permission from BARF (Bath Anarchists).
Political Perspectives Series
Political Perspectives Series
Part 2. What is the Zeitgeist Movement? (Bruce Galliver)
Part 3. Some thoughts on the Olympics opening ceremony (Katy Gent)