Anarchism FAQ - Politics | PoFo

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The 'no government' movement.
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By HoniSoit
1 ) What is Anarchism?

Anarchism advocates the abolition of economic monopolies (e.g. capitalism) and of all political and social coercive institutions within society (e.g. the State, patriarchy and racism). In place of the present system, anarchists would support a free association of all productive forces based upon cooperative labour and the democratic control of all social institutions, aimed at satisfying the needs and creative potentials of every member of society rather than serving the special interest of privileged minorities.

2 ) Do you need to call yourself an anarchist to embrace anarchist principles?

No, you don’t need to regard yourself as anarchist to find the ideas of anarchism appealing. Anarchism tries to encompass ideas and practises that would fulfill human need and potential, and that would create a fair and decent society. These ideas and practises can easily resonate with non-anarchists. This is also why one might find in many social movements that do not see themselves as anarchist but which uphold anarchist principles and ideals.

3 ) Who are the major Anarchist thinkers? (by axm)

There have been many thinkers throughout history who have anarchist themes running through their works. Modern left-wing or social anarchism begins with the thoughts of the first self-proclaimed anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who developed an economic system known as mutualism and who emphasised federalism and workers’ self-management. His ideas were built upon by Mikhail Bakunin, who proposed collectivist anarchism and highlighted the importance of mass insurrection and militant labour movement. Peter Kropotkin, who developed anacho-communism, identified mutual aid, rather than competition, as the best means by which individuals can develop and grow. Some other modern and contemporary influential anarchists were: the anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman; the founder of anarcho-syndicalism Rudolf Rocker; the Italian anarcho-communist Errico Malatesta; and more recently Murray Bookchin who has had a great influence in modern Anarchism with his works on social ecology.

Further Reading:

4 ) If there was no government would complete chaos break out?

Firstly, anarchism does not mean no government. Whilst it is true that anarchists wish to abolish top-down forms of government, they are in favour of organisation. Anarchists have always been in support of a highly organised society to be built from bottom up, and based on participatory democracy, decentralisation of power and voluntary association. Secondly, anarchism does not mean absolute liberty of individuals and no rules which might indeed entail chaos and disorder. Instead, anarchists are firmly against the kind of individual liberty that will coerce, oppress and impeach the rights and liberty of others.

Further Reading:

5 ) How does anarchism deal with crimes?

On the one hand, anarchism attempts to eliminate the social conditions which lead to crimes. Anarchists argue that a large proportion of all crimes in class societies are the result of poverty, inequality, discrimination, social exclusion and other forms of oppression and domination. Therefore, anarchists seek to eliminate these underlying conditions of crime and thereby reduce them. On the other hand, apparently not all crimes will be eliminated overnight, if ever. Hence there might be a need for police force and court. However, it is not to say that these institutions will be maintained in their current forms. Instead, they should be (re)organised like all other anarchist institutions, that is, non-hierarchical, democratic and accountable to the communities.

Further Reading:

6 ) Does anarchism require good human nature?

Anarchism is not predicated on a good or positive human nature. A common criticism is that human nature such as greed and selfishness ensures anarchism will not work. Beside the fact the concept of human nature is little understood, one cannot deny the fact that we have also equally witnessed love and compassion in our everyday life which is often vital for the wellbeing of the individuals and community. Anarchists argue that it is the social, economic and political conditions that to a great extent shape how we behave, and whether one human trait will manifest itself rather than another. Therefore, anarchists desire to create institutional structures that will encourage positive human behaviour while limit the conditions for the manifestation of others.

Further Reading:

7 ) How does anarchism defend itself from outside forces?

It is a difficult question and depends to a large extent the circumstance. In principles, anarchists would favour people’s militias appealing to people’s collective interests in defending their communities rather than professional military based on hierarchical and authoritarian discipline. However, it is not inconceivable that a professional military is needed. Therefore, it is important to develop an international movement that would minimise the possibility and success of outside intervention.

8 ) What would an anarchist society look like?

It may be misleading to talk about an ‘anarchist society’. For many, anarchism is not so much a fixed social and political system as a set of guiding principles in building a fair and just society. Therefore, it is not desirable, or possible to devise any blue print to be followed dogmatically. However, this does not necessarily exclude speculation on how a society might be organised according to anarchist principles so that people could continually refine and adapt them. Some economic and political models have been developed which are in tune with anarchist principles such as Participatory Economy and Participatory Polity. These models emphasis democratic participation in both the political and economic spheres that go beyond voting and favour discussion and consultation, i.e. participation in the deliberative process of decision-making.

9 ) How can an ‘anarchist society’ be achieved?

There are many possibilities as to how such a society might be brought about, such as social revolutions and/or radical social reforms. It is important that the majority of the people realise their oppression, and decide to change and replace the oppressive institutions with more humane and just ones. It certainly cannot be imposed, however well-intentioned it may be, by a small minority.

10 ) Could anarchists support the State?

While anarchism seeks the abolition of the State, it does not mean it must be taken as a dogma. A case can be made that in comparison to the private corporations and market, the State in liberal democratic countries is more accountable to the population, and can be instrumental in ensuring adequate welfare provision and social justice. However, supporting the State against the Market does not entail the relinquishing of power. Rather, it is possible that in enhancing the positive functions of the State, it would facilitate the participation of the people, and widen the scope of public control thereby eventually making the State obsolete.

11 ) What if people don’t want anarchism?

Since anarchism has not been implemented in any large scale over any great length of time, it is difficult to determine what shape it will take and how it will be received by the people. However, anarchists believe the principles of anarchism are in tune with what people want, and find worth working toward. If it happens that people decide to reject anarchism because the values of anarchism contradict to their own, then it is perfectly fine that anarchism should be rejected.
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