As the occupy movement continues to develop, it seems that the line between reform and revolution are becoming more sharply drawn. The reformists are happy with capitalism as a system and would like to simply see the corruption fixed in politics. Then there are the revolutionists that have no desire for capitalism and would prefer humanity to discover a more just, equitable and vibrant system for all to participate in.
I’m personally for a third option: Moral Evolution in which we all make a collective step forward together and move from the love of power, to the power of love.
Which brings me to my support and enthusiasm for anarchism as a political philosophy and for its potential as the best social system we can possibly imagine.
I realize that anarchy is repellent to many people, but I also suspect that this is simply because there is a prevailing lack of understanding. Our history has a number of instances where anarchists have committed acts of political violence and this is understandably off putting. This ranges from McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz to the unabomber, Ted Kaczynski and a number of lesser knowns in between.
While there is, in my humble opinion, never justification for violence; the history of political violence in anarchism should not be an automatic deterrent for those curious about the positive aspects of anarchy. This violence should be understood as a failure of “prefigurative politics.”
Any political system, whether anarchic, republic, or communistic has its ideals that it tries to foist on the whole of a society. These ideals may come from the best of intentions, but when the rubber hits the road there are simply too many divergent perspectives for the ideals to truly take root. The ideal is always prefigurative in the sense that it seeks to, a la Gandhi, “be the change” in the world. But the divergent perspectives begin pushing back and the inevitability is violence. Thus the prefigurative politics fail at providing a plausible ideal.
Anarchism is not unique to this failure of prefigurative politics though. In fact every social system has had some sort of violence in its history and so to simply say that anarchy is violent is an unhelpful half truth. In fact, anarchism as Immanuel Kant describes it should be completely devoid of violent force.
The occupy movement (particularly occupy Oakland) is currently in the prefigurative phase. The premises that the movement is based on are distinctly anarchic: Leaderless organization, direct democracy, direct action, justice, freedom, equality, transparency, and accountability. These are all values that are at the root of anarchism.
I find anarchy to be most preferable because it allows us all the freedom to discern the best course for our own lives. It also allows us the opportunity to develop some deep, meaningful trust in our communities. We need not put trust in “leaders” – instead we should put trust in our own abilities to self-govern.
There is probably a fair amount of fear that people have about actually living in an anarchic society. But I believe these fears to be unfounded. A functioning anarchistic society would still have some rules developed through consensus. There would simply be no rulers. Those rules would be enforced by the community at large. In this sense it is like adding multitudes to the police force, since we would all be our own “self-police” and we would also need to be watching out for our neighbors. For simplicity and efficiency’s sake, the only rule that is truly necessary is: Do to others as you would have done to yourself. Following this rule ensures total de-centralization with simultaneous total systemic regulation.
For those that still fear anarchy; I have to ask what they feel the direction of capitalism is? Do you think that the 1%ers and Wall street folk have the average American citizen’s best interest at heart? No, they are operating under their own world view which is anarchistic in its own right. They have succeeded in legalizing bribery and corruption through the lobbying industry and they have legitimized the destruction of our natural world under the auspices of private gain. How is this not already anarchy of a different sort? In this sense, is anarchy simply a natural evolution of capitalism? If so, what is there to fear aside from the irrational fear of the unknown?
Instead of fear, we can all chose to embrace anarchy under the power of love.
Oakland is already half way there. The social justice advocates, radical activists and artists that pop up on every corner of Oakland have already succeeded in building a meaningful infrastructure of trust and mutual aid. The Oakland police department has sown so much distrust in the community that it actually makes more sense for them to disband and allow the city to develop its own new and vibrant culture without a police presence. I feel like it’s only a matter of time until the tipping point occurs and Oakland is able to shrug off the authoritarian government and be a free city.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that anarchy presupposes that we will devolve into barbarism. Instead I prefer to believe that the prefigurative culture that occupy is establishing will provide the opportunity for the moral evolution to occur. I think we can still have a happy marriage of anarchy and a functioning city system that provides all the services that it already provides if not more. All it takes is for us to totally re-examine our values and determine where our true priorities should be.