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  1. #1

    Anarchism is a political theory which aims to create anarchy, "the absence of a master, of a sovereign." In other words, anarchism is a political theory which aims to create a society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals. As such anarchism opposes all forms of hierarchical control - be that control by the state or a capitalist - as harmful to the individual and their individuality as well as unnecessary.

    While the popular understanding of anarchism is of a violent, anti-State movement, anarchism is a much more subtle and nuanced tradition then a simple opposition to government power. Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organisation. However, "anarchism" and "anarchy" are undoubtedly the most misrepresented ideas in political theory. Generally, the words are used to mean "chaos" or "without order," and so, by implication, anarchists desire social chaos and a return to the "laws of the jungle." This process of misrepresentation is not without historical parallel. For example, in countries which have considered government by one person (monarchy) necessary, the words "republic" or "democracy" have been used precisely like "anarchy," to imply disorder and confusion. Those with a vested interest in preserving the statusquo will obviously wish to imply that opposition to the current system cannot work in practice, and that a new form of society will only lead to chaos. Or, as Errico Malatesta expresses it:

    "since it was thought that government was necessary and that without government there could only be disorder and confusion, it was natural and logical that anarchy, which means absence of government, should sound like absence of order."

    The word "anarchy" is from the Greek, prefix an (or a), meaning "not," "the want of," "the absence of," or "the lack of", plus archos, meaning "a ruler," "director", "chief," "person in charge," or "authority." Or, as Peter Kropotkin put it, Anarchy comes from the Greek words meaning "contrary to authority." While the Greek words anarchos and anarchia are often taken to mean "having no government" or "being without a government," as can be seen, the strict, original meaning of anarchism was not simply "no government." "An-archy" means "without a ruler," or more generally, "without authority," and it is in this sense that anarchists have continually used the word. For example, we find Kropotkin arguing that anarchism "attacks not only capital, but also the main sources of the power of capitalism: law, authority, and the State." For anarchists, anarchy means "not necessarily absence of order, as is generally supposed, but an absence of rule."

    Anarchism can be understood as the generic social and political idea that expresses negation of all power, sovereignty, domination, and hierarchical division, and a will to their dissolution. . . Anarchism is therefore more than anti-statism . . . [even if] government (the state) . . . is, appropriately, the central focus of anarchist critique. For this reason, rather than being purely anti-government or anti-state, anarchism is primarily a movement against hierarchy. Why? Because hierarchy is the organisational structure that embodies authority. Since the state is the "highest" form of hierarchy, anarchists are, by definition, anti-state; but this is not a sufficient definition of anarchism. This means that real anarchists are opposed to all forms of hierarchical organisation, not only the state. 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. Reference to "hierarchy" in this context is a fairly recent development -- the "classical" anarchists such as Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin did use the word, but rarely (they usually preferred "authority," which was used as short-hand for "authoritarian"). However, it's clear from their writings that theirs was a philosophy against hierarchy, against any inequality of power or privileges between individuals. This opposition to hierarchy is, for anarchists, not limited to just the state or government. It includes all authoritarian economic and social relationships as well as political ones, particularly those associated with capitalist property and wage labour.

    Thus "anarchy" means more than just "no government," it means opposition to all forms of authoritarian organisation and hierarchy. In Kropotkin's words, "the origin of the anarchist inception of society . . . [lies in] the criticism ... of the hierarchical organisations and the authoritarian conceptions of society; and ... the analysis of the tendencies that are seen in the progressive movements of mankind. Thus any attempt to assert that anarchy is purely anti-state is a misrepresentation of the word and the way it has been used by the anarchist movement. When one examines the writings of classical anarchists... as well as the character of anarchist movements... it is clearly evident that it has never had this limited vision [of just being against the state]. It has always challenged all forms of authority and exploitation, and has been equally critical of capitalism and religion as it has been of the state. And, just to state the obvious, anarchy does not mean chaos nor do anarchists seek to create chaos or disorder. Instead, they wish to create a society based upon individual freedom and voluntary co-operation. In other words, order from the bottom up, not disorder imposed from the top down by authorities.

    To quote Peter Kropotkin, Anarchism is "the no-government system of socialism." In other words, "the abolition of exploitation and oppression of man by man, that is the abolition of private property [i.e. capitalism] and government." Anarchism, therefore, is a political theory that aims to create a society which is without political, economic or social hierarchies. Anarchists maintain that anarchy, the absence of rulers, is a viable form of social system and so work for the maximisation of individual liberty and social equality. They see the goals of liberty and equality as mutually self-supporting. While there are many different types of anarchism (from individualist anarchism to communist-anarchism -- there has always been two common positions at the core of all of them -- opposition to government and opposition to capitalism. In the words of the individualist-anarchist Benjamin Tucker, anarchism insists on "the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury; on no more government of man by man, and no more exploitation of man by man. All anarchists view profit, interest and rent as usury (i.e. as exploitation) and so oppose them and the conditions that create them just as much as they oppose government and the State. More generally, in the words of L. Susan Brown, the "unifying link" within anarchism "is a universal condemnation of hierarchy and domination and a willingness to fight for the freedom of the human individual." For anarchists, a person cannot be free if they are subject to state or capitalist authority.

    So Anarchism is a political theory which advocates the creation of anarchy, a society based on the maxim of "no rulers." To achieve this, "[i]n common with all socialists, the anarchists hold that the private ownership of land, capital, and machinery has had its time; that it is condemned to disappear: and that all requisites for production must, and will, become the common property of society, and be managed in common by the producers of wealth. And... they maintain that the ideal of the political organisation of society is a condition of things where the functions of government are reduced to minimum... [and] that the ultimate aim of society is the reduction of the functions of government to nil -- that is, to a society without government, to an-archy. Thus anarchism is both positive and negative. It analyses and critiques current society while at the same time offering a vision of a potential new society -- a society that fulfils certain human needs which the current one denies. Anarchism unites critical analysis with hope, for, as Bakunin pointed out,

    "the urge to destroy is a creative urge."

    One cannot build a better society without understanding what is wrong with the present one.

    Many anarchists, seeing the negative nature of the definition of "anarchism," have used other terms to emphasise the inherently positive and constructive aspect of their ideas. The most common terms used are "free socialism," "free communism," "libertarian socialism," and "libertarian communism." For anarchists, libertarian socialism, libertarian communism, and anarchism are virtually interchangeable.

    LIBERTARIAN is one who believes in freedom of action and thought; one who believes in free will. SOCIALISM is a social system in which the producers possess both political power and the means of producing and distributing goods. Just taking those two first definitions and fusing them yields: LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM: a social system which believes in freedom of action and thought and free will, in which the producers possess both political power and the means of producing and distributing goods.

    However, due to the creation of the Libertarian Party in the USA, many people now consider the idea of "libertarian socialism" to be a contradiction in terms. Indeed, many "Libertarians" think anarchists are just attempting to associate the "anti-libertarian" ideas of "socialism" (as Libertarians conceive it) with Libertarian ideology in order to make those "socialist" ideas more "acceptable" -- in other words, trying to steal the "libertarian" label from its rightful possessors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists have been using the term "libertarian" to describe themselves and their ideas since the 1850's. The revolutionary anarchist Joseph Dejacque published Le Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement social in New York between 1858 and 1861. According to anarchist historian Max Nettlau, the use of the term "libertarian communism" dates from November, 1880 when a French anarchist congress adopted it. The use of the term "Libertarian" by anarchists became more popular from the 1890s onward after it was used in France in an attempt to get round anti-anarchist laws and to avoid the negative associations of the word "anarchy" in the popular mind. Since then, particularly outside America, it has always been associated with anarchist ideas and movements. Taking a more recent example, in the USA, anarchists organised "The Libertarian League" in July 1954, which had staunch anarcho-syndicalist principles and lasted until 1965. The US-based "Libertarian" Party, on the other hand has only existed since the early 1970's, well over 100 years after anarchists first used the term to describe their political ideas (and 90 years after the expression "libertarian communism" was first adopted). It is that party, not the anarchists, who have "stolen" the word. Only a libertarian-socialist system of ownership can maximise individual freedom. Needless to say, state ownership -- what is commonly called "socialism" -- is, for anarchists, not socialism at all. In fact, state "socialism" is just a form of capitalism, with no socialist content whatever. All branches of anarchism are opposed to capitalism. This is because capitalism is based upon oppression and exploitation. Anarchists reject the "notion that men cannot work together unless they have a driving-master to take a percentage of their product" and think that in an anarchist society the real workmen will make their own regulations, decide when and where and how things shall be done. By so doing workers would free themselves from the terrible bondage of capitalism. Anarchists are opposed to all economic forms which are based on domination and exploitation, including feudalism, Soviet-style "socialism" and so on. We just concentrate on capitalism because that is what is dominating the world just now.

    Individualists like Benjamin Tucker along with social anarchists like Proudhon and Bakunin proclaimed themselves "socialists." They did so because, as Kropotkin put it in his classic essay "Modern Science and Anarchism," "[s]o long as Socialism was understood in its wide, generic, and true sense -- as an effort to abolish the exploitation of Labour by Capital -- the Anarchists were marching hand-in-hands with the Socialists of that time." Or, in Tucker's words, "the bottom claim of Socialism [is] that labour should be put in possession of its own," a claim that both "the two schools of Socialistic thought ... State Socialism and Anarchism" agreed upon. Hence the word "socialist" was originally defined to include "all those who believed in the individual's right to possess what he or she produced." This opposition to exploitation (or usury) is shared by all true anarchists and places them under the socialist banner.

    For most socialists, the only guarantee not to be robbed of the fruits of your labour is to possess the instruments of labour. For this reason Proudhon, for example, supported workers' co-operatives, where "every individual employed in the association ... has an undivided share in the property of the company" because by "participation in losses and gains . . . the collective force [i.e. surplus] ceases to be a source of profits for a small number of managers: it becomes the property of all workers." Thus, in addition to desiring the end of exploitation of labour by capital, true socialists also desire a society within which the producers own and control the means of production. The means by which the producers will do this is a moot point in anarchist and other socialist circles, but the desire remains a common one. Anarchists favour direct workers' control and either ownership by workers' associations or by the commune. Moreover, anarchists also reject capitalism for being authoritarian as well as exploitative. Under capitalism, workers do not govern themselves during the production process nor have control over the product of their labour. Such a situation is hardly based on equal freedom for all, nor can it be non-exploitative, and is so opposed by anarchists. This perspective can best be found in the work of Proudhon's (who inspired both Tucker and Bakunin) where he argues that anarchism would see "[c]apitalistic and proprietary exploitation stopped everywhere [and] the wage system abolished" for "either the workman... will be simply the employee of the proprietor-capitalist-promoter; or he will participate ... In the first case the workman is subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience... In the second case he resumes his dignity as a man and citizen... he forms part of the producing organisation, of which he was before but the slave ... we need not hesitate, for we have no choice... it is necessary to form an ASSOCIATION among workers ... because without that, they would remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two... castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society. So anarchists consider themselves as socialists, but socialists of a specific kind -- libertarian socialists. As the individualist anarchist Joseph A. Labadie puts it (echoing both Tucker and Bakunin):

    "[i]t is said that Anarchism is not socialism. This is a mistake. Anarchism is voluntary Socialism. There are two kinds of Socialism, archistic and anarchistic, authoritarian and libertarian, state and free. Indeed, every proposition for social betterment is either to increase or decrease the powers of external wills and forces over the individual. As they increase they are archistic; as they decrease they are anarchistic."

    Labadie stated on many occasions that "all anarchists are socialists, but not all socialists are anarchists." Therefore, Daniel Guerin's comment that "Anarchism is really a synonym for socialism. The anarchist is primarily a socialist whose aim is to abolish the exploitation of man by man" is echoed throughout the history of the anarchist movement, be it the social or individualist wings. Indeed, the Haymarket Martyr Adolph Fischer used almost exactly the same words as Labadie to express the same fact -- "every anarchist is a socialist, but every socialist is not necessarily an anarchist" -- while acknowledging that the movement was "divided into two factions; the communistic anarchists and the Proudhon or middle-class anarchists. Today "socialism" almost always refers to state socialism, a system that all anarchists have opposed as a denial of freedom and genuine socialist ideals. All anarchists would agree with Noam Chomsky's statement on this issue:

    "If the left is understood to include 'Bolshevism,' then I would flatly dissociate myself from the left. Lenin was one of the greatest enemies of socialism." Anarchism developed in constant opposition to the ideas of Marxism, social democracy and Leninism. Long before Lenin rose to power, Mikhail Bakunin warned the followers of Marx against the "Red bureaucracy" that would institute "the worst of all despotic governments" if Marx's state-socialist ideas were ever implemented. Indeed, the works of Stirner, Proudhon and especially Bakunin all predict the horror of state Socialism with great accuracy. In addition, the anarchists were among the first and most vocal critics and opposition to the Bolshevik regime in Russia. Nevertheless, being socialists, anarchists do share some ideas with some Marxists (though none with Leninists). Both Bakunin and Tucker accepted Marx's analysis and critique of capitalism as well as his labour theory of value. Marx himself was heavily influenced by Max Stirner's book The Ego and Its Own, which contains a brilliant critique of what Marx called "vulgar" communism as well as state socialism. There have also been elements of the Marxist movement holding views very similar to social anarchism (particularly the anarcho-syndicalist branch of social anarchism) -- for example, Anton Pannekoek, Rosa Luxembourg, Paul Mattick and others, who are very far from Lenin. Karl Korsch and others wrote sympathetically of the anarchist revolution in Spain. There are many continuities from Marx to Lenin, but there are also continuities from Marx to more libertarian Marxists, who were harshly critical of Lenin and Bolshevism and whose ideas approximate anarchism's desire for the free association of equals. Therefore anarchism is basically a form of socialism, one that stands in direct opposition to what is usually defined as "socialism" (i.e. state ownership and control). Instead of "central planning," which many people associate with the word "socialism," anarchists advocate free association and co-operation between individuals, workplaces and communities and so oppose "state" socialism as a form of state capitalism in which "[e]very man [and woman] will be a wage-receiver, and the State the only wage payer." Thus anarchist's reject Marxism (what most people think of as "socialism") as just "[t]he idea of the State as Capitalist ... which the Social-Democratic fraction of the great Socialist Party is now trying to reduce Socialism."

    Copied and pasted: Originally posted at,

  2. #2

  3. #3

  4. #4
    Your analysis never fails to instill outrage and anger with the way the world works, but many people are left uncertain about what exactly you would do to change it.

    Will you people out there be able to lay out your goals and strategy with precision and clarity, or you'll only leave us disappointed with your generalized statements of libertarian socialist values? Can you provide us with a "master plan" to follow step-by-step into a bright shining future???

    While it may be difficult to predict what particular forms a more just social organization will take, maybe is it that you guys out there are suggesting that only experience can show us the best answers to these questions?

    I mean you have not tried to write anything systematic about anarchism. A look at the contemporary anarchist literature, particularly in the West and in intellectual circles, will quickly show that a large part of it is denunciation of others for their deviations, rather as in the Marxist-Leninist sectarian literature. Personally, I have no confidence in my own views about the "right way," and am unimpressed with the confident pronouncements of others. I feel that far too little is understood to be able to say very much with any confidence. We can try to formulate our long-term visions, our goals, our ideals; and we can (and should) dedicate ourselves to working on issues of human significance. But the gap between the two is often considerable, and I rarely see any way to bridge it except at a very vague and general level.

    I guess the currents of anarchist thought that interest me (there are many) have their roots, I think, in the Enlightenment and classical liberalism, and even trace back in interesting ways to the scientific revolution of the 17th century, including aspects that are often considered reactionary, like Cartesian rationalism. Won't try to recapitulate here, except to say that I tend to agree with the important anarchosyndicalist writer and activist Rudolf Rocker that classical liberal ideas were wrecked on the shoals of industrial capitalism, never to recover (I'm referring to Rocker in the 1930s; decades later, he thought differently). The Spanish Civil War is perhaps the most important case, though we should recall that the anarchist revolution that swept over a good part of Spain in 1936, taking various forms, was not a spontaneous upsurge, but had been prepared in many decades of education, organization, struggle, defeat, and sometimes victories. It was very significant. Sufficiently so as to call down the wrath of every major power system: Stalinism, fascism, western liberalism, most intellectual currents and their doctrinal institutions -- all combined to condemn and destroy the anarchist revolution, as they did; a sign of its significance, in my opinion.

    I think also that anarchism is formless and utopian, though hardly more so than the inane doctrines of neoliberalism, Marxism-Leninism, and other ideologies that have appealed to the powerful and their intellectual servants over the years, for reasons that are all too easy to explain. The reason for the general formlessness and intellectual vacuity (often disguised in big words, but that is again in the self-interest of intellectuals) is that we do not understand very much about complex systems, such as human societies; and have only intuitions of limited validity as to the ways they should be reshaped and constructed. Anarchism, in my view, is an expression of the idea that THE BURDEN OF PROOF IS ALWAYS ON THOSE WHON ARGUE THAT AUTHORITY AND DOMINATION ARE NECESSARY. They have to demonstrate, with powerful argument, that that conclusion is correct. If they cannot, then the institutions they defend should be considered illegitimate. How one should react to illegitimate authority depends on circumstances and conditions: there are no formulas.

    As I understand the term "anarchism," it is based on the hope (in our state of ignorance, we cannot go beyond that) that core elements of human nature include sentiments of solidarity, mutual support, sympathy, concern for others, and so on. Would people work less in an egalitarian society? Yes, insofar as they are driven to work by the need for survival; or by material reward, a kind of pathology, I believe, like the kind of pathology that leads some to take pleasure from torturing others. Those who find reasonable the classical liberal doctrine that the impulse to engage in creative work is at the core of human nature -- something we see constantly, I think, from children to the elderly, when circumstances allow -- will be very suspicious of these doctrines, which are highly serviceable to power and authority, but seem to have no other merits. Would an absence of government allow the strong to dominate the weak? We don't know. If so, then forms of social organization would have to be constructed -- there are many possibilities -- to overcome this crime. What would be the consequences of democratic decision-making? The answers are unknown. We would have to learn by trial. Let's try it and find out.

    Prospects for freedom and justice are limitless. The steps we should take depend on what we are trying to achieve. There are, and can be, no general answers. The questions are wrongly put. I am reminded of a nice slogan of the rural workers' movement in Brazil: they say that they must expand the floor of the cage, until the point when they can break the bars. At times, that even requires defense of the cage against even worse predators outside: defense of illegitimate state power against predatory private tyranny in the United States today, for example, a point that should be obvious to any person committed to justice and freedom -- anyone, for example, who thinks that children should have food to eat -- but that seems difficult for many people who regard themselves as libertarians and anarchists to comprehend. That is one of the self-destructive and irrational impulses of decent people who consider themselves to be on the left, in my opinion, separating them in practice from the lives and legitimate aspirations of suffering people.

  5. #5
    Hierarchical authority is inextricably connected with the marginalisation and disempowerment of those without authority. This has negative effects on those over whom authority is exercised, since "[t]hose who have these symbols of authority and those who benefit from them must dull their subject people's realistic, i.e. critical, thinking and make them believe the fiction [that irrational authority is rational and necessary], ... [so] the mind is lulled into submission by cliches...[and] people are made dumb because they become dependent and lose their capacity to trust their eyes and judgement." [Erich Fromm, Op. Cit., p. 47] Or, in the words of Bakunin, "the principle of authority, applied to men who have surpassed or attained their majority, becomes a monstrosity, a source of slavery and intellectual and moral depravity." ["God and the State", p. 41]

    This is echoed by the syndicalist miners who wrote the classic "The Miner's Next Step" when they indicate the nature of authoritarian organisations and their effect on those involved. Leadership (i.e. hierarchical authority) "implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to spite of...good intentions... [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood [sic!], is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his... [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being 'the men'...In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy." Indeed, for the "leader," such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader "sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion." ["The Miners Next Step", pp. 16-17 p. 15] Anarchists argue that hierarchical social relationships will have a negative effect on those subject to them, who can no longer exercise their critical, creative and mental abilities *freely*. As Colin Ward argues, people "do go from womb to tomb without realising their human potential, precisely because the power to initiate, to participate in innovating, choosing, judging, and deciding is reserved for the top men" (and it usually *is* men!) ["Anarchy in Action", p, 42]. Anarchism is based on the insight that there is an inter-relationship between the authority structures of institutions and the psychological qualities and attitudes of individuals. Following orders all day hardly builds an independent, empowered, creative personality. As Emma Goldman made clear, if a person's "inclination and judgement are subordinated to the will of a master" (such as a boss, as most people have to sell their labour under capitalism) then little wonder such an authoritarian relationship "condemns millions of people to be mere nonentities." ["Red Emma Speaks",
    p. 36]

    As the human brain is a bodily organ, it needs to be used regularly in order to be at its fittest. Authority concentrates decision-making in the hands of those at the top, meaning that most people are turned into executants, following the orders of others. If muscle is not used, it turns to fat; if the brain is not used, creativity, critical thought and mental abilities become blunted and side-tracked onto marginal issues, like sports and fashion. Therefore, "[h]ierarchical institutions foster alienated and exploitative relationships among those who participate in them, disempowering people and distancing them from their own reality. Hierarchies make some people dependent on others, blame the dependent for their dependency, and then use that dependency as a justification for further exercise of authority....Those in positions of relative dominance tend to define the very characteristics of those subordinate to them .... Anarchists argue that to be always in a position of being acted upon and never to be allowed to act is to be doomed to a state of dependence and resignation. Those who are constantly ordered about and prevented from thinking for themselves soon come to doubt their own capacities. . .[and have] difficulty acting on [their] sense of self in opposition to societal norms, standards and expectations." [Martha Ackelsberg, "Free Women of Spain", pp. 19-20] Thus, in the words of Colin Ward, the "system makes its morons, then despises
    them for their ineptitude, and rewards its 'gifted few' for their rarity." [Op. Cit., p. 43] In addition to these negative psychological effects from the denial of
    liberty, authoritarian social relationships also produce social inequality. This is because an individual subject to the authority of another has to obey the orders of those above them in the social hierarchy. In capitalism this means that workers have to follow the orders of their boss, orders that are designed to make the boss richer (for example, from
    1994 to 1995 alone, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) compensation in the USA rose 16%, compared to 2.8% for workers, which did not even keep pace with inflation, and whose stagnating wages cannot be blamed on corporate
    profits, which rose a healthy 14.8% for that year). Inequality in terms of power will translate itself into inequality in terms of wealth (and vice versa). The effects of such social inequality are wide-reaching. For example, poor people are more likely to be sick and die at an earlier age, compared to rich people. Moreover, the degree of inequality is important (i.e. the size of the gap between rich and poor). According to an editorial in the "British Medical Journal, "what matters in determining mortality and health in a society is less the overall wealth of that society and more how evenly wealth is distributed. The more equally wealth is distributed the better the health of that society," [Vol. 312, April 20,
    1996, p. 985] Research in the USA found overwhelming evidence of this. George Kaplan and his colleagues measured inequality in the 50 US states and compared it to the age-adjusted death rate for all causes of death, and a pattern emerged: the more un-equal the distribution of income, the greater the death rate. In other words, it is the gap between rich and poor, and not the average income in each state, that best predicts the death rate in each state. ["Inequality in income and mortality in the United States: analysis of
    mortality and potential pathways," "British Medical Journal" Vol. 312, April 20, 1996, pp. 999-1003] This measure of income inequality was also tested against other social conditions besides health. States with greater inequality in the distribution of income also had higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of incarceration, a higher percentage of people receiving income assistance and food stamps, a greater percentage of people without medical insurance, greater proportion of babies born with low birth weight, higher murder rates, higher rates of violent crime, higher costs per-person for medical care, and higher costs per person for police protection. As the gap grows between rich and poor (indicating an increase in social hierarchy within and without of workplaces) the health of a people deteriorates and the social fabric unravels. The psychological hardship of being low down on the social ladder has detrimental effects on people, beyond whatever effects are produced by the substandard housing, nutrition, air quality, recreational opportunities, and medical care enjoyed by the poor.

    The growing gap between rich and poor has not been ordained by god, nature or some other superhuman force. It has been created by a specific social system, its institutions and workings - a system based upon authoritarian social relationships which effect us both physically and mentally. All this is not to suggest that those at the bottom of hierarchies are victims nor that those at the top of hierarchies only gain benefits - far from it. Those at the bottom are constantly resisting the negative effects of hierarchy and creating non-hierarchical ways of living and fighting. This constant process of self-activity and self-liberation can be seen from the labour, women's and other movements - in which, to some degree, people create their own alternatives based upon their own dreams and hopes. Anarchism is based upon, and grew out of, this process of resistance, hope and direct action. If we look at those at the top of the system, yes, indeed they often do *very* well in terms of material goods and access to education, leisure, health and so on but they can lose their humanity and individuality. As Bakunin pointed out, "power and authority corrupt those who exercise them as much as those who are compelled to submit to them." ["The Political Philosophy of Bakunin", p. 249] Power operates destructively, even on those who have it, reducing their individuality as it "renders them stupid and brutal, even when they were originally endowed with the best of talents. One who is constantly striving to force everything into a mechanical order at last becomes a machine himself and loses all human feeling." [Rudolf Rocker, "Anarcho-Syndicalism", p. 22]

    When it boils down to it, hierarchy is self-defeating, for if "wealth is other people," then by treating others as less than yourself, restricting their growth, you lose all the potential insights and abilities these individuals have, so impoverishing your own life and *restricting your own growth.* Unfortunately in these days material wealth (a particularly narrow form of "self-interest") has replaced concern for developing the whole person and leading a fulfilling and creative life (a broad self-interest, which places the individual *within* society, one that recognises that relationships with others shape and develop all individuals). In a hierarchical, class-based society everyone loses to some degree, even those at the "top."

  6. #6
    What kind of hierarchy of values does capitalism create?

    Capitalism produces a perverted hierarchy of values -- one that places humanity below property. As Erich Fromm argues, "the use [i.e. exploitation] of man by man is expressive of the system of values underlying the capitalistic system.

    *Capital, the dead past, employs labour -- the living vitality and power of the present.*

    In the capitalistic hierarchy of values, capital stands higher than labour, amassed things higher than the manifestations of life. Capital employs labour, and not labour capital. The person who owns capital commands the person who 'only' owns his life, human skill, vitality and creative productivity. 'Things' are higher than man. The conflict between capital and labour is much more than the conflict between two classes, more than their fight for a greater share of the social product. It is the conflict between two principles of value: that between the world of things, and their amassment, and the world of life and its productivity." ["The Sane Society", pp. 94-95]Capitalism only values a person as representing a certain amount of the commodity called "labour power," in other words, as a *thing*. Instead of being valued as an individual -- a unique human being with intrinsic moral and spiritual worth -- only one's price tag counts. This debasement of the individual in the workplace, where so much time is spent, necessarily affects a person's self-image, which in turn carries over into the way he/she acts in other areas of life. If one is regarded as a commodity at work, one comes to regard oneself and others in that way also. Thus all social relationships -- and so, ultimately, *all* individuals -- are commodified. In capitalism, literally nothing is sacred -- "everything has its price" -- be it dignity, self-worth, pride, honour -- all become commodities up for grabs. Such debasement produces a number of social pathologies. "Consumerism" is one example which can be traced directly to the commodification of the individual under capitalism. To quote Fromm again,

    "THINGS have no self, and men who have become things [i.e. commodities on the labour market] can have no self" ["The Sane Society", p. 143].

    However, people still feel the NEED for self-hood, and so try to fill the emptiness by consuming. The illusion of happiness, that one's life will be complete if one gets a new commodity, drives people to consume. Unfortunately, since commodities are yet more things, they provide no substitute for self-hood, and so the consuming must begin anew. This process is, of course, encouraged by the advertising industry, which tries to convince us to buy what we don't need because it will make us popular/****/happy/free/etc (delete as appropriate!). But consuming cannot really satisfy the needs that the commodities are bought to satisfy. Those needs can only be satisfied by social interaction based on truly human values and by creative, self-directed work. This does not mean, of course, that anarchists are against higher living standards or material goods. To the contrary, they recognise that liberty and a good life are only possible when one does not have to worry about having enough food, decent housing, and so forth. Freedom and 16 hrs of work a day do not go together, nor do equality and poverty or solidarity and hunger. However, anarchists consider consumerism to be a distortion of consumption caused by the alienating and inhuman "account book" ethics of capitalism, which crushes the individual and his or her sense of identity, dignity and selfhood.

  7. #7
    How is the mass-psychological basis for authoritarian civilisation created?

    Hierarchical, authoritarian institutions tend to be self-perpetuating, because growing up under their influence creates submissive/authoritarian personalities -- people who both "respect" authority (based on fear of punishment) and desire to exercise it themselves on subordinates. Individuals with such a character structure do not really want to dismantle hierarchies, because they are afraid of the responsibility entailed by genuine freedom. It seems "natural" and "right" to them that society's institutions, from the authoritarian factory to the patriarchal family, should be pyramidal, with an elite at the top giving orders while those below them merely obey. Thus we have the spectacle of so called "Libertarians" and "anarcho" capitalists bleating about "liberty" while at the same time advocating factory fascism and privatised states. In short, authoritarian civilisation reproduces itself with each generation because, through an intricate system of conditioning that permeates every aspect of society, it creates masses of people who support the status quo.

    Wilhelm Reich has given one of the most thorough analyses of the psychological processes involved in the reproduction of authoritarian civilisation. Reich based his analysis on 4 of Freud's most solidly grounded discoveries, namely, (1) that there exists an unconscious part of the mind which has a powerful though irrational influence on behaviour; (2) that even the small child develops a lively "genital" sexuality, i.e. a
    desire for sexual pleasure which has nothing to do with procreation; (3) that childhood sexuality along with the Oedipal conflicts that arise in parent-child relations under monogamy and patriarchy are usually repressed through fear of punishment or disapproval for sexual acts and thoughts; (4) that this blocking of the child's natural sexual activity and extinguishing it from memory does not weaken its force in the unconscious, but actually intensifies it and enables it to manifest itself in various pathological disturbances and anti-social drives; and (5) that, far from being of divine origin, human moral codes are derived from the educational measures used by the parents and parental surrogates in earliest childhood, the most effective of these being the ones opposed to childhood sexuality.

    By studying Bronislaw Malinowsli's research on the Trobriand Islanders, a woman-centred (matricentric) society in which children's sexual behaviour was not repressed and in which neuroses and perversions as well as authoritarian institutions and values were almost non-existent, Reich came to the conclusion that patriarchy and authoritarianism originally developed when tribal chieftains began to get economic advantages from a certain type of marriage ("cross-cousin marriages") entered into by their sons. In such marriages, the brothers of the son's wife were obliged to pay a dowry to her in the form of continuous tribute, thus enriching her husband's clan (i.e. the chief's). By arranging many such marriages for his sons (which were usually numerous due to the chief's privilege of polygamy), the chief's clan could accumulate wealth. Thus society began to be stratified into ruling and subordinate clans based on wealth. To secure the permanence of these "good" marriages, strict monogamy was required. However, it was found that monogamy was impossible to maintain without the repression of childhood sexuality, since, as statistics show, children who are allowed free expression of sexuality often do not adapt successfully to life-long monogamy. Therefore, along with class stratification and private property, authoritarian child-rearing methods were developed to inculcate the repressive sexual morality on which the new patriarchal system depended for its reproduction. Thus there is a historical correlation between, on the one hand, pre-patriarchal society, primitive libertarian communism (or "work democracy," to use Reich's expression), economic equality, and sexual freedom, and on the other, patriarchal society, a private property economy, economic class stratification, and sexual repression. As Reich puts it:

    "Every tribe that developed from a [matricentric] to a patriarchal organisation had to change the sexual structure of its members to produce a sexuality in keeping with its new form of life. This was a necessary change because the shifting of power and of wealth from the democratic gens [maternal clans] to the authoritarian family of the chief was mainly implemented with the help of the suppression of the sexual strivings of the people. It was in this way that sexual suppression became an essential factor in the division of society into classes."

    "Marriage, and the lawful dowry it entailed, became the axis of the transformation of the one organisation into the other. In view of the
    fact that the marriage tribute of the wife's gens to the man's family strengthened the male's, especially the chief's, position of power, the male members of the higher ranking gens and families developed a keen interest in making the nuptial ties permanent. At this stage, in other words, only the man had an interest in marriage. In this way natural
    work-democracy's simple alliance, which could be easily dissolved at any time, was transformed into the permanent and monogamous marital relationship of patriarchy. The permanent monogamous marriage became the basic institution of patriarchal society -- which it still is today. To safeguard these marriages, however, it was necessary to impose greater and greater restrictions upon and to depreciate natural genital strivings" ["The Mass Psychology of Fascism",p. 90] The suppression of natural sexuality involved in this transformation from matricentric to patriarchal society created various anti-social drives (sadism, destructive impulses, rape fantasies, etc.), which then also had to be suppressed through the imposition of a compulsive morality, which took the place the natural self-regulation that one finds in pre-patriarchal societies. In this way, *** began to be regarded as "dirty," "diabolical," "wicked," etc. -- which it had indeed become through the creation of secondary drives. Thus:

    "The patriarchal-authoritarian sexual order that resulted from the revolutionary processes of latter-day [matricentrism] (economic independence of the chief's family from the maternal gens, a growing exchange of goods between the tribes, development of the means of production, etc.) becomes the primary basis of authoritarian ideology by depriving the women, children, and adolescents of their sexual freedom, making a commodity of *** and placing sexual interests in the service of economic subjugation. From now on, sexuality is indeed distorted; it becomes diabolical and demonic and has to be curbed" [Ibid. p. 88]. Once the beginnings of patriarchy are in place, the creation of a fully authoritarian society based on the psychological crippling of its members through sexual suppression follows:

    "The moral inhibition of the child's natural sexuality, the last stage of which is the severe impairment of the child's G E N I T A L sexuality, makes the child afraid, shy, fearful of authority, obedient, 'good,' and 'docile' in the authoritarian sense of the words. It has a crippling effect on man's rebellious forces because every vital life-impulse is now burdened with severe fear; and since s e x is a forbidden subject, thought in general and man's critical faculty also become inhibited. In short, morality's aim is to produce acquiescent subjects who, despite distress and humiliation, are adjusted to the authoritarian order. Thus, the family is the authoritarian state in miniature, to which the child must learn to adapt himself as a preparation for the general social adjustment required of him later. Man's authoritarian structure -- this must be clearly established -- is basically produced by the embedding of sexual inhibitions and fear" in the person's bioenergetic structure. [Ibid., p. 30] In this way, by damaging the individual's power to rebel and think for him/herself, the inhibition of childhood sexuality -- and indeed other forms of free, natural expression of bioenergy (e.g. shouting, crying, running, jumping, etc.) -- becomes the most important weapon in creating reactionary personalities. This is why every reactionary politician puts such an emphasis on "strengthening the family" and promoting "family values" (i.e. patriarchy, compulsive monogamy, premarital chastity, corporal punishment, etc.).

    Since authoritarian society reproduces itself in the individual structures of the masses with the help of the authoritarian family, it follows that political reaction has to regard and defend the authoritarian family as THE basis of the "state, culture, and civilisation...." [It is] POLITICAL REACTION'S GERM CELL, the most important centre for
    the production of reactionary men and women. Originating and developing from definite social processes, it becomes the most essential institution for the preservation of the authoritarian system that shapes it. The family is the most essential institution for this purpose because children are most vulnerable to psychological maiming in their first few years, from the time of birth to about 6 yrs of age, during which time they are mostly in the charge of their parents. The schools and churches then continue the process of conditioning once the children are old enough to be away from their parents, but they are generally unsuccessful if the proper foundation has not been laid very early in life by the parents. Thus A.S. Neill observes that "the nursery training is very like the kennel training. The whipped child, like the whipped puppy, grows into an obedient, inferior adult. And as we train our dogs to suit our own purposes, so we train our children. In that kennel, the nursery, the human dogs must be clean; they must feed when we think it convenient for them to feed. I saw a 100,000 obedient, fawning dogs wag their tails in the Templehof, Berlin, when in 1935, the great trainer Hitler whistled his commands ["Summerhill: a Radical Approach to Child Rearing", p. 100].

    The family is also the main agency of repression during adolescence, when sexual energy reaches its peak. This is because the vast majority of parents provide no private space for adolescents to pursue undisturbed sexual relationships with their partners, but in fact actively discourage such behaviour, often (as in fundamentalist Christian families) demanding complete abstinence -- at the very time when abstinence is most impossible! Moreover, since teenagers are economically dependent on their parents under capitalism, with no societal provision of housing or dormitories allowing for sexual freedom, young people have no alternative but to submit to irrational parental demands for abstention from premarital s e x. This in turn forces them to engage in furtive s e x in the back-seats of cars or other out-of-the-way places where they cannot relax or obtain full sexual satisfaction. As Reich found, when sexuality is repressed and laden with anxiety, the result is always some degree of what he terms "orgastic impotence": the inability to fully surrender to the flow of energy discharged during ******. Hence there is an incomplete release of sexual tension, which results in a state of chronic bioenergetic stasis. Such a condition, Reich found, is the breeding ground for neuroses and reactionary attitudes. In this connection it is interesting to note that "primitive" societies, such as the Trobriand Islanders, prior to their developing patriarchal-authoritarian institutions, provided special community houses where teenagers could go with their partners to enjoy undisturbed sexual relationships -- and this with society's full approval. Such an institution would be taken for granted in an anarchist society, as it is implied by the concept of freedom.

    Nationalistic feelings can also be traced to the authoritarian family. A child's attachment to its mother is, of course, natural and is the basis of all family ties. Subjectively, the emotional core of the concepts of homeland and nation are mother and family, since the mother is the homeland of the child, just as the family is the "nation in miniature." According to Reich, who carefully studied the mass appeal of Hitler's "National Socialism," nationalistic sentiments are a direct continuation of the family tie and are rooted in a FIXATED tie to the mother. As Reich points out, although infantile attachment to the mother is natural, FIXATED attachment is not, but is a social product. In puberty, the tie to the mother would make room for other attachments, i.e., natural sexual relations, IF the unnatural sexual restrictions imposed on adolescents did not cause it to be eternalised. It is in the form of this socially-conditioned externalisation that fixation on the mother becomes the basis of nationalist feelings in the adult; and it is only at this stage that it becomes a reactionary social force. Later writers who have followed Reich in analysing the process of creating reactionary character structures have broadened the scope of his analysis to include other important inhibitions, besides sexual ones, that are imposed on children and adolescents. Rianne Eisler, for example, in her book "Sacred Pleasure", stresses that it is not just a ***-negative attitude but a PLEASURE-negative attitude that creates the kinds of personalities in question. Denial of the value of pleasurable sensations permeates our unconscious, as reflected, for example, in the common idea that to enjoy the pleasures of the body is the "animalistic" (and hence "bad") side of human nature, as contrasted with the "higher" pleasures of the mind and "spirit." By such dualism, which denies a spiritual aspect to the body, people are made to feel guilty about enjoying any pleasurable sensations -- a conditioning that does, however, prepare them for lives based on the sacrifice of pleasure (or indeed, even of life itself) under capitalism and statism, with their requirements of mass submission to alienated labour, exploitation, military service to protect ruling-class interests, and so on. And at the same time, authoritarian ideology emphasises the value of suffering, as for example through the glorification of the tough, insensitive warrior hero, who suffers (and inflicts "necessary" suffering on others ) for the sake of some pitiless ideal.

    Eisler also points out that there is "ample evidence that people who grow up in families where rigid hierarchies and painful punishments are the norm learn to suppress anger toward their parents. There is also ample evidence that this anger is then often deflected against traditionally disempowered groups (such as minorities, children, and women)" This repressed anger then becomes fertile ground for reactionary politicians, whose mass appeal usually rests in part on scapegoating minorities for society's problems. As the psychologist Else Frenkel-Brunswick documents in "The Authoritarian Personality", people who have been conditioned through childhood abuse to surrender their will to the requirements of feared authoritarian parents, also tend to be very susceptible as adults to surrender their will and minds to authoritarian leaders. "In other words, at the same time that they learn to deflect their repressed rage against those they perceive as weak, they also learn to submit to autocratic or 'strong-man' rule. Moreover, having been severely punished for any hint of rebellion (even 'talking back' about being treated unfairly), they gradually also learn to deny to themselves that there was anything wrong with what was done to them as children -- and to do it in turn to their own children"

    These are just some of the mechanisms that perpetuate the status quo by creating the kinds of personalities who worship authority and fear freedom. Consequently, anarchists are generally opposed to traditional child-rearing practices, the patriarchal-authoritarian family (and its "values"), the suppression of adolescent sexuality, and the pleasure-denying, pain affirming attitudes taught by the Church and in most schools. In place of these, anarchists favour non-authoritarian, non-repressive child-rearing practices and educational methods whose purpose is to prevent, or at least minimise, the psychological crippling of individuals, allowing them instead to develop natural self regulation and self-motivated learning. This, we believe, is the only way to for people to grow up into happy, creative, and truly freedom-loving individuals who will provide the psychological ground where anarchist economic and political institutions can flourish.

  8. #8

    ... The suppression of natural sexuality involved in this transformation from matricentric to patriarchal society created various anti-social drives (sadism, destructive impulses, rape fantasies, etc.), which then also had to be suppressed through the imposition of a compulsive morality, which took the place the natural self-regulation that one finds in pre-patriarchal societies. In this way, S E X began to be regarded as "dirty," "diabolical," "wicked," etc. -- which it had indeed become through the creation of secondary drives. ...

    ... "The patriarchal-authoritarian sexual order that resulted from the revolutionary processes of latter-day [matricentrism] (economic independence of the chief's family from the maternal gens, a growing exchange of goods between the tribes, development of the means of production, etc.) becomes the primary basis of authoritarian ideology by depriving the women, children, and adolescents of their sexual freedom, making a commodity of S E X and placing sexual interests in the service of economic subjugation. ...

    ... As Reich found, when sexuality is repressed and laden with anxiety, the result is always some degree of what he terms "orgastic impotence": the inability to fully surrender to the flow of energy discharged during O R G A S M. ...

    ... Rianne Eisler, for example, in her book "Sacred Pleasure", stresses that it is not just a ***-negative attitude but a PLEASURE-negative attitude that creates the kinds of personalities in question. ...

  9. #9

    ... Rianne Eisler, for example, in her book "Sacred Pleasure", stresses that it is not just a S E X-negative attitude but a PLEASURE-negative attitude that creates the kinds of personalities in question. ...

  10. #10
    Oh my God Another outrageous thread!

    I'm acrimonious!

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