Big thanks to my friend Big Red on Facebook for revising a lot of the grammatical and structure in the original post
Anarchism and its history, schools, thinkers have been discussed just about ad nauseum by this point and by now perhaps you’re tired of it. Well, you’re in luck since this is the last part of the series and I shall diverge slightly from the tradition of my previous posts. This shall happen predominately in the second part where I discuss whether anarchism has a future and if it does, what sort of future that might be. First off, though, I’d like to discuss contemporary anarchism, that is, anarchism in the 21st century. I admit to having taken the name from this Wikipedia post but I felt this was the best name for this title. I’ve also generally used Wikipedia references and even some of Wikipedia itself, though I don’t think this a bad thing necessarily as most information I have used has been backed by other reputable citations.
Now with that out of the way, I’d like to discuss one of the biggest influences on the anarchist movement in the late 90s and still today, which is the anti-globalization movement.
The anti-globalization movement and its effect on anarchism as a movement
A tactic (please note that it’s not a an organization as it is typically referred) called Black Bloc, which is a tactic used by the reserves of the last guard of revolutionary anarchists (not to mention pseudo-anarchists and sometimes even cops in disguise just to discredit any type of rebellion that may go on). In general this tactic has been used at anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) protests as well as G3 protests and so forth and also where there is a collection of many social-anarchists.
The question is whether such a tactic has a positive effect on the movement; I think the answer to this question can be easily seen just from the simple fact that this is the part of the anarchist movement on which the media concentrates, and by that I mean with little or no exception calls this “true anarchism”, demeans it, and puts it down and patronizes the movement as a bunch of rebellious teenagers with no aim. I think this claim by the by is fairly accurate for some of the people in this movement, especially when a lot of the people in “charge” of the movement have said this themselves. Though, as they’ve noted, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I should also note I’m not just explaining the history (both current and past) of anarchism but also criticizing it at certain points where I think it is appropriate. This is why I’m talking about the anti-globalization movement in this sense of how effective it is and it (at least for the anarchists) seems to be a losing cause and one that anarchists should avoid.
Although I could offer my own criticisms of the tactic of Black Bloc and these demonstrations and their relation to anarchism, I think the criticism I found on Molly’s blog, which can be found here. , certainly puts a lot of nails in the coffin of this tactic and I certainly don’t find much value in it. That all aside, I think allies in this movement CAN be made but they certainly have trouble with the terms “free market” and any sort of “capitalism” you may like. Also, I’d like to say that Black Bloc tactics are not inherently violent; there can be people within it showing solidarity peacefully and using direct action to help others and block police, etc. So I’m not on a whole oppose to the Black Bloc tactic, but the violent types of it I certainly am. And thus I am also not wholly against the anti-globalization movement either, but I certainly think there’s some things to be improved on and should be reevaluated.
The Internet and Anarchism
A recent development within the 80s and 90s resulted in the most magical and wonderful thing in the world (well, up there anyways): the Internet! That’s right, the series of tubes you’ve been using for years is actually pretty heavily related to anarchism. How, you might ask? Well, through things like the the Free Software Movement, Cyrpto Anarchism and even some anarchistic things in independent media such as the Independent Media Center which is supposed to serve as an alternative to the corporate media of the day. But it’s more than just what organizations and philosophies came out of the creation of the Internet, but also the internet itself. It’s about what the Internet is itself and the idea of Crypto-Anarchism gets into this a bit like I am right now.
Kevin Carson has gotten into this on articles in C4SS found here, here, and you can find more probably on his blog or elsewhere. As for myself I concur with Carson that Internet is a great resource for networking for others on an anonymous and decentralized manner and is the best way to topple the top-down hierarchies that in current society rule with the state, not to mention the state itself. The Internet is therefore a great tool to be used by anarchists to go against the state in perhaps a great way, depending on what you use and how you use it. Agorists can use it to build the counter-economy more effectively, and writers can use it to get their opinions and essays and so forth out there faster, which is why anarchist literature is a lot more prominent than it ever was. And it can be good for other anarchists as well just as tool to network and meet up with other anarchists and plan events from there; this is something very prominently done on sites like Facebook.
Overall, the Internet can be a great resource for almost any anarchist (well besides the anarcho-primivitists) and I really encourage people to become familiar with it. Whether for social networking, activism, planning activism, agorism, opposing the state, or distributing your ideas, the Internet can simply not be ignored by anarchists as a tool for the coming revolution – whenever that happens anyways.
Current thinkers and schools of thought
Thinkers of anarchism I did not talk about include Murray Rothbard, Konkin, Karl Hess, H.L. Menken, Albert Jay Nock, and so many others, because (i) There was simply no room in most c…ases, (ii) I can wrap what remaining thinkers were really influential in this post as well as the schools of thought they helped start or continue/influence, and finally (iii) A lot of the remaining thinkers were covered by my take on anarcho-capitalism anyways.
So what’s the point of mentioning them now, then, and the other schools of thought that may have emerged? Well, to be as accurate as possible, I should include all of the information I feel is relevant to anarchist history. Fortunately for myself, I have already mentioned one of the newest schools of anarchist thought that I have not investigated thoroughly in the least and so as far as I am concerned it’s still in an infant phase but has a lot of potential — that being the school of crypto-anarchism. Past that, however, I have not discussed anarcho-capitalism, agorism, free market anarchism (though this is usually conflated with anarcho-capitalism and considered one and the same), anarchism without adjectives, panarchism, anarcho-pacifism, and anarcho-socialism; though, those last two have been mentioned in passing previously and I’ve already stated why I’ve not gotten into anarcho-socialists.
So with all of that, what is there left to discuss? Well, I shall discuss a general theme of “market anarchism”, including agorism, anarcho-capitalism and discuss some odds and ends like panarchism and anarcho-pacifism. After that, I shall go into whether anarchism has a future and if it does, what sort of anarchism.
Market anarchism is a broad category. Almost all forms of anarchism could fall under it; even social-anarchists generally favor some sort of egalitarian market in place of the “capitalist” exploiting marke…t place.So from mutualists, libertarian-socialists, anarcho-capitalists, voluntaryists, agorists, panarchists, and more. But what I want to discuss is anarcho-capitalists, voluntaryists, and agorists, and what could possibly be seen as “right anarchism” (with possibly the exception of agorism in certain cases). With that in mind, I’ve already talked about market anarchismbefore and brought up Rothbard and David Friedman, two of the main proponents of anarcho-capitalism, but there are still some more modern-day proponents.
Modern days proponents of anarcho-capialism
Such examples would include Stephan Kinsella, Walter Block, and more or less the crowd from the Mises Institute that advocate a stateless society in any sort of manner. Both advocate also that anarchism is a non-political winged ideology: it’s neither left nor right, but it’s something that either transcends or for some strange reason just doesn’t exist on the political spectrum at all. Hans-Herman Hoppe is also a well-known anarcho-capitalist and most known for advocating monarchic rule over democracy in his book Democracy: The God That Failed. David Friedman is still a major proponent of anarcho-capitalism as well; though, he does it strictly on a utilitarian basis, which Rothbard criticized him here. Kinsella is well known for his work against intellectual property as well as his defense of “plumbline” libertarianism, while Block is more known for the study of economics and his defense of what he calls “plumbline” libertarianism. Such a libertarianism prescribes no adjectives to it (besides plumbline) or as to where it stands on social issues and leaves that to property rights, the NAP, and self-ownership. Anarcho-capitalists may defend politics; though, some do not and make a point to oppose it, which is where the idea of voluntaryism comes from…
Carl Watner is probably one of the most well-known voluntaryists, leading the site voluntaryist.com, which has a plethora of information and writings on it. Other prominent voluntaryist types would be anarcha-feminist and individualist Wendy McElroy; Auberon Herbert (while not alive), who coined the term in the first place; and George H. Smith. As anarcho-capitalism is generally considered on the libertarian right, voluntaryists are known for their rejection of politics and generally embracing many forms of civil disobedience and peaceful direct action. Some are even on the libertarian-left and embrace a sort of left variant of market anarchism (this is what I have done personally to still call myself a voluntaryist).
So while voluntaryism can basically be seen as a variant of anarcho-capitalism with only non-political action, a possible tendency to favor left-wing market anarchism and peaceful direct action, it does have a nice function as a secondary or utopian idea of what anarchism should be, not what it most likely is going to be. I think holding the philosophy of voluntaryism as an ideal is something that should be more advocated along side thick and left libertarianism, which means a value of equality in its proper libertarian context, social justice, mutuality and solidarity.
Agorism was something developed by Samuel Edward Konkin III and is basically described as a strategy towards achieving a free society through a political revolution of a market type. The process is the so-called “counter-economy” or peaceful black market out-competing the state’s white markets and red market,s where legal things are exchanged on a basis of the state’s permission and deemed legal in the first case and through violence dealt with by whomever in the second. J. Neil Schulman was also a contributing agorist with his book Alongside Night.. Agorism can be understood as either being a strategy or a political philosophy all on its own: when it’s a philosophy, it generally is considered left-libertarian, but when used as an occasional strategy, it can be used in some amount of successful cohesion with anarcho-capitalists.
The Future of Anarchism
So, anarchism quite clearly has a past and while a mixed one, it is a past that has been filled with tons of thinkers, schools of thought, communities tried and failed, communities still going, questions answered and unanswered, tactics used and failed and some even marginally successful; but does anarchism have any sort of future left here in the 21st century? I am returning to one of my previous sources, Harold Barclay, who wrote People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy, in which Barclay at the end of his book asks the same question and adds the proposition that perhaps history is a one way street for anarchism.
He begins by saying,
“Whether anarchy has any future requires us first to consider how to dispense with the state which now prevails everywhere. Secondly, we may inquire into the general pattern of historic and cultural trends regarding state development and the prospects for a libertarian age from that vantage point.” (p. 142)
He then lists some techniques to abolish the state, such as creating counter-institutions to make the states services unnecessary (agorism, dual power, mutualism, etc.), revolutionary tactics of violence, a third and final one is non-violent direct action. Just like myself, Barclay does not advocate for the second method or politics, saying,
“Why anarchists should avoid electoral politics should be obvious from what has already said about anarchism. But, in short, they do not believe one can defeat an enemy by joining him.” (p. 142)
Barclay insists that those who try to “build the new shell within the old” actually have no stake in the new system and cites the use of intentional communities advocated by some people like Josiah Warren but here I believe Barclay is mistaken. The left-libertarian idea of doing so, which originated from the Industrial Workers of the World’s (IWW) slogan, takes many different forms, and sure, some are just self-interested and just want quick personal change, but I see nothing wrong with that. I also don’t think this is even the case in most left-libertarians and think Barclay would be hard pressed to prove such a thing. Regardless, his tactics and mine are aligned: we both believe in the same sort of tactics and ends, but what about their effectiveness?
I think revolutionary change is possible but only through a combination of non-violent direct action, the building up of counter-institutions, a counter-economy, education, protesting, and other sorts of civil disobedience. In short, what I believe is that a plurality of tactics is needed if we as anarchists are ever to completely undermine the state and have it abolished eventually. But how hopeful of an endeavor is this to begin with? I myself believe it shall not happen, if ever, past a few more lifetimes but I’m not too optimistic it’ll happen in my life for sure. Barclay takes it a bit further and says he doubts anarchy will ever happen, citing intentional communities always failing by themselves or through the state intervening. He always cites how history is against us as anarchists, with states currently more and more centralizing and getting bigger and bigger with no signs of slowing down.
Here I must depart from the “anarcho-cynicist” view of things as Barclay terms it, for I see the possibility of anarchism as a real one and if I did not, I’d hardly know what to work towards or do with myself politically speaking. I suppose I could just reign to apathy like many people in the United States have, but for me that does not sit well. I cannot imagine standing idly by and not writing out my dissatisfaction with the current system, networking with other anarchists, trying to educate others and show my solidarity with other anarchists through various means at the least. Barclay talks how the state shall eventually suppress voluntary institutions. I agree, this is a real grave threat to this sort of tactic, but this is why the institutions need to be built from the bottom up and done through an anonymous and decentralized manner so as not to draw attention to itself until its garnered enough support to stand on its own. Tarrin Lupo, for example, has some wonderful tips on how to start a black market business and should really be given a good look at by anyone interested.
Means to an end
In the end, Barclay discredits violent action in a word as fantastical and incapable of not contradicting some of the core principles of anarchism. In replace of that, he advocates voluntary institutions and non-violent direct action as the only viable ways to undermine the state; though, he doubts it’ll work due to the trend of state politics. Still, I think Barclay misses one point: that state politics recently has been failing, the American empire is starting to show more and more cracks in it, Greece has a 20% black market counter-economy in it, and while it’s not perfect by any stretch, it still shows that empires can and DO still fall. (Though, of course, Barclay did not write this book when this was happening, he even wrote this before 9/11; he wrote it when something called “the Internet” was still in its infant stages.)
And this brings me to my second major point: that the internet really shows that anarchic politics can still survive, albeit in a secluded section of the world; but its a big part of the world and the amount of illegal activity, the people disobeying bad laws and engaging in agorism and building up counter institutions via the market place is probably enumerable.
The number of people disobeying the state, doing what they want without hurting others, contributing to the state, doing things in a voluntary and peaceful manner in an anonymous decentralized manner, networking (whether they know it or doing it intentionally or not), and working to undermine the state likewise should be almost enumerable. But of course Barclay could counter, “Couldn’t the state just shut this down, too?” Well, first of all, I’d say that thinking the state is some sort of “modern God” is a mistake some anarchists make a lot; the state is made up of individuals, like any organization, and like any organization they can mess up and get the job done wrong. So, I don’t think it’s good to really consider anything anarchists will do will be “shut down” by the state. This seems counter-productive to imagine and have that sort of mindset straight from the get-go. And past that, it’s just not true that the state could shut down such an organization or at least do it and not have the public be heavily frustrated. Witness WikiLeaks; has it been shut down? Perhaps Assange will be discredited, but for now he’s still in business, even when the US government wants his head.Those documents keep coming in and out of the organization Assange leads.
What sort of future?
So I think it can be determined anarchism has a sort of future, the radical notion that others belong to you and they’re not your property to begin with. So does such a movement have a future? I think by what I’ve said it seems anarchists can have at the very least a slightly hopeful outlook especially with things like organizations like the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, the Free State Project, and there are so many other organizations, radio shows, internet blog shows, blogs, writers, institutes and so forth, so what sort of a future does anarchism have?
I’ll leave that up to you and me to figure out and decide for ourselves, after all, isn’t that what anarchism is all about?
Conclusion of series: An Anarchist History
1. Anarchist history dates back all the way to the first days of man, from hunter-gatherer tribes to horticultural tribes, from agricultural societies to even some still today. An…archist thought has always found a home in some place in this world. It could even be said that anarchic thought and organization is one of the oldest in history and the most natural; of course, this does not mean it is the best or most moral necessarily. Societies like Celtic Ireland, Medieval Iceland, and the not-so-Wild-Wild West were also heavily anarchistic in a lot of their traits and all lasted a good length of time with decent results showing, at the very least, that people can associate in a big society and still have a healthy sort of anarchy even if it’s not completely anarchic.
2. From ancient China to Greece, some of the first thinkers of anarchism were highly respected philosophers; in Greece they were the cynics and in China it was people like Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu who warned of the evils of government. Agricultural societies also sometimes had anarchistic trappings, but generally fell short of an anarchist society like the earlier tribesman societies were, though places like Pennsylvania were genuinely anarchic for the most part for a few years; however, this was the exception, not the rule. Pierre-Joseph Produhon and other anarchists, whether they proclaimed it or not, started filling the ranks of anarchist thought and schools of thought and philosophical anarchism and mutualism were born.
3. In the 20th century Anarchism got more ground in the individualist field from people like Benjamin Tucker, Josiah Warren, Lysander Spooner, Stephan Pearl Andrews and others, while insurrection anarchism was also highly prevalent. The complicated schools of anarcho-socialism and anarcho-capitalism were also born and got more out of their early stages in the late 90s with the help of past thinkers like Emma Goldman and thinkers before her for social-anarchism. For anarcho-capitalism, individualist anarchists were their inspiration.
4. Anarchism is not hanging on with the help of the Internet; alternative media; new technology; new forms of anarchist thought; and strong-hearted individuals like Julian Assange, who leads the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. It also exists through the valuable tactics of “building the new shell within the old” through non-violent direct action, the building of the counter-economy, the use of dual power, and other methods of education and protest. Anarchism has a future but how bright it is, is to be determined by the individuals within the movement and the organizations that now represent it.
There are many divides within the current movement and this is something I hope to address next, namely, the divides within the movement and how best to patch them up.