Anarchy: chaos, confusion, disorder, lawlessness, rebellion, riot1. This is how the dictionary explains anarchism and without a doubt this is how most people understand it to be. However they forget that the ideology itself stands for peace, equality and the idea of a stateless society. In this essay I will seek to explain the theory of anarchy, as well as answering the question by distinguishing between its positive aspects and its negative ones. I will also try to elucidate if anarchism can work and also give examples of it in practise as well as explain what is wrong with it as I go along.
The basic commitment in anarchy is freedom. It teaches that society can and should be organised without the coercive authority of the state and it sees it as its biggest enemy and as an oppressor of the people2. There are however four different types of anarchists who agree on a stateless society but they range from defenders of private property and free market to supporters of complete common ownership, co-operative labour and distribution according to need3. The four different schools of thought in anarchy are: individualism, mutualism, collectivism and communism.
Each of them differs in opinion and how the perfect anarchist society should be constructed. Individualists see the individual as their starting point, the German Max Sterner argued that the person should act exactly as he pleases taking no notice of God, state or moral values. Another individualist, Benjamin Tucker, argued that without the state each person could exercise the right to protect his own freedom4. Both of the above mentioned anarchists argue for freedom of the person and no state, they have a vision that everyone would act on behalf of their own interests and their own good.
They do forget however that what might be in someone's good interest may collide with someone else's interest, and since there is no authority they would have to sort it out between themselves and in many cases this would undoubtedly end with violence. If a whole country was an individualist society than this would mean that millions of people would be in that situation everyday and this would lead to millions of fights and probably ending up in a civil war or in a state of 'anarchy'.
The other school of thought, mutualism, stands between individualist and collectivist approaches. This term was started by Proudhon who believed in a scheme that allowed individuals to exchange goods and secure credit without the need for political involvement or trade unions5. This scheme implies that equal amounts of labour should receive equal pay, this is a great idea but it would be hard to decide which jobs should receive more pay for their work as some jobs are harder and require more skill than others.
The capitalist system which we are living under at the moment is the best system in allocating people according to skill and merit, it pays more those who work harder pays less those who don't as a general rule. It also rewards those people who work hard in school and education by getting better paid jobs in the future as well as doing itself a favour by placing the most able according to skill to the appropriate job. Collectivism is the anarchist movement made popular by Michael Bakunin (1814-1876).
This is closest to socialism and some form of it was put in practice in the economies of the communist states, known as 'state collectivism'6. This form of collectivism took all private property which people owned including farms, live animals and even factories and placed them under state control where all the produce would be divided equally between the states population. However the core idea of this theory is that it expects humans to work together for the good of the collective rather than for their own interest.
This would be hard to achieve because in order to organise a collective unit there would be need for someone to organise events and there would be a need for a system which would represent the interests of those people and therefore the whole idea of no authority would be invalid because even if the representatives were volunteers they would still have some authority. The other form of anarchy is communism, however this is not communism as we know it after the Russian Revolution and the example of the Marxist states which were influenced by the Soviet Union but a form of society where there would be no need for a state and authority.
This theory was put forward by anarchists such as Malatesta, Elisi?? e Reclus and Kropotkin. In an anarchist society as such, the work would be organised by voluntary associations of workers, there would be communes who would support the needs of the people in that area as well as co-ordinate projects such as road and railway systems which crossed that area7. They believed that because there is no private property, 'the problem of crime will so far diminish that offenders will be dealt with informally. 8' They argue that a communist system must be adopted voluntarily rather than by force.
This form of system takes the form of a Utopian society where everyone would live happy ever after, however there are a number of flaws in this system and one of them is the problem with property. If there is no private property and everything belongs to everyone how will people decide who uses what? For example, if two people would want the same car on the same day who gets it? It would be a long process to decide for it and therefore it would probably be too annoying to go through all those unnecessary bureaucracies and the probability of the people getting what they want when they want would be slim.
Also the question of crime, if people do not own anything than it would not be a crime if someone took the car without consent because it's theirs as much as everyone else's. However anarchism is not absolutely useless, there are a few points which make it a respectable ideology and could probably work in a modern society. Anarchist ideas can be seen in many of today's laws and movements. It has encouraged liberals to overcome their hypocrisies over matters such as freedom of speech9. Its ideas of human equality, freedom, no coercion and exploitation has helped the feminist movement to achieve some of their goals.
Other values for which they stand for such as opposition to violence can be related to pacifism. Another reason why anarchism can be good is that everyone is treated as an equal, in contrast with the capitalist system of USA they only gave African Americans equal rights in 1963, and South Africa ended apartheid in 1993. With this anarchism proves that many of its ideas were ahead of its time in the 19th century when it was at its height. The only place where anarchy really succeeded as a system was in Spain in the 1930's. The Spaniards baked Bakunin when he broke with Marx in 1872 over the First International.
By 1915 they had over 1 million supporters and in 1921 when the Spanish Communist Party was formed they had four times as many members as the communists10. The anarchists were strongest in Barcelona and Andalusia in the South. In Barcelona all the large industries passed through the anarchist organisation, Confedacion National del Trajbajo (CNT), people who didn't support it were killed and churches and buildings of faiths were destroyed and money was replaced with coupons in some places, while in other places in the south each town acted on its own responsibility and by 1937 around 3 million people were living under collectivist anarchy11.
These anarchists however adopted military methods as well as entering the government as Garcia Oliver did by becoming Minister of Justice and as they did in Catalonia where they called themselves Revolutionary Defence Council in order to give the wrong impression that they were not in a real government12. However by April 1937 a civil war between the communists and the anarchists broke out in Barcelona where 500 people were killed, after this CNT's influence declined, and in 1938 they signed an agreement with the socialists to place the industry under government control13.
What do we learn from the Spanish example? The main paradox which is instantly recognisable is that they had to get in the government which goes against all of their ideas. Also we learn that a revolutionary force would be faced with a counter-revolutionary one and inevitably anarchists would find themselves in situations of power such as in Catalonia. If the anarchists had won, they could never have made it possible for a state like Spain to grow economically at that time without a government to organise some sort of plans for the wellbeing of the country.
The main point which we learn from Spain is that it takes a state to get rid of a state, there can be no such thing as a stateless society. This whole idea of a stateless society also brings us to another question. What is the purpose of the state and why do we need it? This is also related to the original question as it would show more reasons about what is wrong with anarchy. Rousseau argues in his Social Contract that people moved from a state of natural liberty to one of social contract, where people have given up their rights to the state.
He says that although humans have lost some advantages which they had under the natural liberty they have gained others which are probably more important. With social contract people have gained an 'unlimited right to everything he gets and succeeds in getting. He gains civil liberty and proprietorship of all his possesses'14. He also argues that under natural liberty humans are bounded by physical strength, but under civil liberty the limit is general will.
Rousseau's explanations of the two different systems give a very clear image of how life would be for those who live without a state, where the strongest will survive or where the weak would gang up on the strongest and after defeating them they would fight amongst each-other. So the reason why we should have a state is that it protects us from harm as well as protect anything which may belong to us. It guarantees us peace and order and by using the police it reduces crimes.
We would need a state and some form of authority because that is the only way in which we can keep fellow human beings under control and even though the state puts its well being first that means that it would protect its people and their interests. In this case anarchism is wrong because it does not guarantee people security, they base their argument on peoples ability to reason and their ability establish contracts voluntarily without the need for a state which has no ground. There are a great number of faults within the theory of anarchy, it is a good idea on paper and peoples minds but it would not work in practise.
One of the main faults with it is the fact that there are so many schools of thought and they do not agree with each other on the core issues of anarchy, such as, what kind of system would best work for people, while some argue on pure individual values others argue on some form of authority. Anarchy is based on a very nai?? ve view of the people where we are meant to trust everyone and work for everyone's good, this would not be at all possible as humans are naturally cynics and their greed and desire for power would always take over. It has never attracted a great number of supporters and the example of Spain shows that it would not work.
Also the very idea that there should not be a government contradicts all the present forms of society where advances in technology and the high living standards owe it to the democratic governments which are the norm in most parts of the world. The dictionary and what the majority of the people think are right in my opinion because a state of anarchy would mean a state where there are no laws and from the examples that we might have seen in recent years in different parts of the world, where there is anarchy there is war, destruction, and above all, poverty.