Shifting Democracy: Anarchy is preferable

6g. Anarchy is preferable

We are in a race against time – against mass species extinction, increasing inequality, ecological collapse, etc. – and every day that we do not try to affect change at the structural level is a day lost.”

Anarchy is not the same as chaos. Here is the definition with which I am working:

a theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary co-operation and free association of individuals and groups.”

What is needed is a new socio-economic model that is within the carrying capacity of Planet Earth. For this people need to accept that responsibility and freedom are intimately intertwined.

People go on talking about freedom but they don’t want freedom exactly, they want irresponsibility. They ask for freedom, but deep down, unconsciously, they ask for irresponsibility; license. Freedom is maturity; license is very childish. Freedom is possible only when you are so integrated that you can take the responsibility of being free…A healthy person is always aware that whatever they are doing, they are responsible. The very idea of responsibility will give you a freedom, a dignity.” Osho

I will leave it to ‘The Anarchist Studies Network’ to explain below where an anarchist standpoint fits into the shift from a parliamentary, representative democracy to a directly participatory democracy.

Present government… “is looking to roll back the state. Anarchists want this too, but the government is looking to roll back the state and let business take up the slack, thereby bringing a fictitious ‘free market’ into every last recess of our lives. That’s where the disagreement lies. Anarchists advocate practical alternatives to both this neoliberal slash-and-burn policy and the old Labour state-socialism…

Anarchists do not believe that state socialism is the only alternative to the undemocratic inequalities produced by neoliberalism. Socialising property does not have to mean nationalising it – that would simply be substituting one set of bosses for another. What about genuine collective worker ownership of industry and services; what about universities democratically run by academics, students and support staff, instead of largely unaccountable and overpaid managers and technocrats?

More widely, couldn’t we radicalise the co-operative model and have all companies democratically owned and run by their managers and workers? Couldn’t we expand and federate worker co-ops, mutuals and collectives? The movement for fan-ownership of football clubs is a further indication that these kinds of alternatives work. The challenge is to think through their potential, and anarchism provides such a framework.

Because this fake democracy doesn’t work and the interests of anarchists could never be represented by a political party, direct action is the tactic of choice. And direct action is part of the process of creating direct democracy. It produces results by raising the profile of causes and often halting practices many object to.

As well as a tactic, direct action is also a means for self-empowerment. It is a component of the society we hope to create, where people take control of their lives into their own hands and confront the root causes of injustices directly, without representatives. This sometimes includes property damage, but anarchists take seriously the notions of liberty and equality: that people are capable of speaking and acting for themselves and become even more capable through practice rather than representation.

The threat to a liveable world comes not from anarchists or terrorists, but from governments and capitalism. Before the current crisis is used as a front to take us even deeper into a neoliberal nightmare, let’s reconsider alternatives.”

The Anarchist Studies Network is a specialist group of the UK Political Studies Association. This piece was collectively written but does not necessarily reflect a consensus view.


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