Can Anarchism work?

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Joined: 18-08-05
Aug 18 2005 22:03
Can Anarchism work?

Hi! I am new to this board so I thought I would first of all say hello. I'm 20 years old and I live in Stoke-on-Trent. I'm also a member of the Socialist Party. I was present at the G8 in July (for the entire week) and I received a leaflet from a member of the AF. I had a small knowledge of Anarchism before the G8, but this made me very curious about the AF and it's beliefs and so I decided that this may just be the best place to ask my questions. Hopefully you'll have some great answers for me.

1) Abolition of the state

In "The State and Revolution" by V. I. Lenin, he explains that when society is transformed after the revolution into a socialist society that, over an unspecified period of time, society will develop into a communist society and, eventually, the state with wither away by it's own accord because of the eventual lack of need for a state (although it is impossible to know when this will occur, if at all). To me this seems more logical and scientific than the abolition of the state. I personally cannot see how the state can be abolished over-night and an Anarchist-Communism society created in it's place without any means of achieve this.

2) Crime

Society needs to be revolutionised and gradually altered because people do not change their behaviours overnight. If the state is abolished overnight, crime will rise in my opinion because of the capitalist nature remaining within some sections of humanity and the remaining want of some people. Without any at least initial form of control after the revolution, chaos may reign. How would this be combatted? (By crime here, I'm referring to attacks such as murder, rape, etc, not the poor thieving from the wealthy)

3) Poverty

One of the central aims of Socialism/Communism is the re-distribution of wealth around the world. How would Anarchist-Communism create this without a central body acting to achieve this? Death, poverty and disease need to be erradicated using a central body, otherwise re-distribution, aid and construction cannot reach these areas.

4) The Police

I personally do not like the police at all. I view them as the first line of defence for capitalist society, and corrupt/intolerant. As Lenin describes them, they are like a "primitive stick-wielding herd of monkeys". Anyway, as much as I dislike them, constantly attacking the police only harms the reputation of Anarchist and ultimately, other left-wing groups (because the moronic masses cannot differentiate between the different groups and the image created by the capitalist press). I advocate all forms of self-defence against them, for example, when they attack you, when they try to intimidate you, when they block an allowed route for a demonstration/march, etc, etc, but I would like to know what is the idea behind constant violent attacks on them?

5) Health Service

A health service is about the only aspect of capitalist society I want society to retain (though obviously not managed the same). It saves people's lives ultimately. Of course, the amount of casualities and the need for a health service would decrease under socialism/communism, but it would still be necessary. If the state was abolished, how would a health service run?

6) Food

People need food to survive (obviously). I have read before that under anarchist-communism, people could spend their lives fulfilling their greatest desires and doing more productive things (along those lines anyway). However, would humanity not return to spending alot of time hunting for and growing food? Surely a nationalised body distributing food according to needs would be better.

7) Counter-revolution

After the revolution, counter-revolutions always occur. How would society be able to defend against these attacks, which will no doubt be violent, without an organisational body? If a counter-revolution from the capitalist class does occur, the working class and other revolutionaries will not be able to defend itself and the newly created society without organisation and arms (a state or at least a hierarchy).

8 ) Politics

I recognise the AF and the Anarchist ideology are anti-state and do not wish to 'conform' to politics, but how can you expect to alter the thinking of the masses without getting involved in this process? Politics is the main outlet for changing society and a debate could occur should you become involved.

These are very brief questions, but hopefully you can answer these for me. These questions are not meant to be critical, because I do not have dislike of an ideology centred around an aim of achieveing anarchist-communism, but I cannot understand how questions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 could be achieved.


Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
Aug 19 2005 07:51

NB s/he's also posted this question in intro thought here:

Joined: 18-08-05
Aug 19 2005 18:00

Sorry. I posted the topic into "Introductory Thought" by mistake and decided to cut and paste it into the AF subforum in order to try and get more reponses.

sam sanchez's picture
sam sanchez
Joined: 8-09-05
Sep 8 2005 13:44

In answer to your ideas of wealth redistribution, this would be achieved structurally rather than by shuffling cash around. Bear with me:

1) each workplace would be an autonomous syndicate direcly managed by its workers. Such co-operatives exist today, and you don't need to read marx to want workplace autonomy. Surveys show that such autonomy is directly linked to job satisfaction.

2) Syndicates in a geogaphical district federate together (I assume you are familar with the idea of a non-hierarchical federation run through direct democracy and self management). Again, they do this because of the feeling of working class solodarity created by the struggle to take over their workplaces, and because common sense says that if they compete some will fail, whilst if they co-operate they can all survive. I'm sure your plumber colleagues don't need snobby marxists to tell them that. In fact, many co-ops, as well as capitalist firms federate in some way.

3) This local federation is called a commune. Whilst syndicates are largely autonomous and self managed, there are a few commonly agreed conditions of membership. The main one is that after the members of a syndicate have taken what they need of their produce, they give the rest away to whoever else needs it in the commune, free of charge.

4) This is a gift economy. It works for the following reasons. Firstly, if a bakers syndicate keeps more bread then its members can eat, there is no point. If they refuse to produce as much as they have agreed to, or i they refuse to donate their surpless, they will be excluded from the commune, and the members of the syndicate will not have access to the product of the other syndicates. Therefore the survival of the members of any syndicate depends on them honouring their agreement to ensure that the needs of all others in the commune are met.

5) These autonomous communes would federate into town, regional, 'national' and international federations, as no syndicate or region can be completely self sufficient, especially if people want more than a subsistence lifestyle. Again each commune would agree to give its surpless to whoever requested it, and to produce the amount mutually agreed at congresses of mandated, recallable delegates from the workplaces of each commune. If they did not do so, they could be expelled, the other communes could vote to expel them. Therefore the survival and prosperity of any one commune, area or nation depends on it co-operating to ensure the prosperity of all.

6) Within this system, a communes or their constituent syndicates in (for example) an area of central africa facing famine could simply place orders with more prosperous syndicates or communes which were able to meet the demand. Therefore equal ability to satisfy ones needs would be guaranteed to all, and if anyone jeopardied this, they would risk expulsion form the gift economy, and so it would not be in their interest to do so.

Incidentally, this also works really well for public services. members of a commune would simply obtain the reources needed to build hospitals etc. and then if the other members saw this as worthwhile, the health syndicate would become part of the gift economy, and its members could enjoy all of the benefits of the commune. They would not have to seek security via profit, like private hospitals do.

I think this system could work. In effect, it replaces an exchange of goods with an exchange of material security. Getting there is difficult, but I guarantee that we won't get there if intellectually elitist state socialists tell people how to run their own lives. If everything was nationalised, these acts of self liberation would be dismantled, which i see as disgraceful. All this requires is the belief that we can self organise (refuted by marxists as much as by capitalists), and the obvious recognition that co-operation will make sure no-one falls into poverty, whereas if we compete, and I lose, I could end up hungry.

Joined: 7-01-06
Jan 7 2006 23:03


Re point 6: food (and resources). Capitalism is a highly inefficient means of organising production - if we take fossil fuels out of the equation.

We can already see on the horizon declining fossil fuel supplies which provide energy and agricultural fertiliser for capitalist production. These resources are coming into higher demand at a time when their supply is on the verge of decline. You do the maths. Large quantities of cheap energy have propped up the capitalist experiment, but oil is finite and it will run out quicker than we think: exponential economic growth versus diminishing supply. Globalisation will have to retract and local production will be the path of the future.

The result is that there will be a drive towards more local and non-intensive production of food and the grass-roots empowerment and equality this brings. This can only be good for those of us who want to see an end to capitalism and a more distributed form of social organisation such as that proposed by anarchist-communism.

Cheap energy has provided the elites with much of their current power but it will end along with intensive agriculture and the global trade that increases the rich-poor divide. This is approaching at a time when knowledge and communication are increasing, both of which are effective tools against authoritarian control and which can help us build a real human society. It is not fanciful to see how the anarchist-communist vision of distributed power could thrive in the years ahead.


Joined: 19-03-06
Mar 21 2006 17:05

I have to remind you that when we run out of oil we all face problems, though not in terms of fuel. Industries that require oil such as the plastic manufacturing industry will cease to be (of course this will occur before oil runs out, due to the massive inflation of prices in capitalist systems), but this would happen whoever was running them.

Fuel is less of a problem though, since diesel engines will run on a surprising range of fuels, which are of course illegal because they cannot be taxed in the same way as actual diesel.

Edit - coincidentally, my name is Alastair too.

Joined: 27-06-06
Jul 9 2006 01:54

Am I wrong in thinking that oil based chemicals is what is allowing our farmers to mass produce this cornicopia of food to feed the paying world. Surely when the oil runs dry the food production will drop by 80%. Causing not only the cost of food, but the cost of production itself to skyrocket, until we find that everyone will be millionaires. Since a loaf of bread will cost about a million pounds (no joke, look at some countries in Africa). The people who starve to death then won't be some far off family in those impoverished African states, but the family next door.

Joined: 27-06-06
Jul 16 2006 15:15

hmmm my last post really dosn't say anything about Anarchism does it?

Of course Anarchism can work, but it'll take an enlightened society to accomplish, and they would be attacked from all sides by those who have conflicting interests. Not to mention the real chance of chaos that would follow when a small community decide to lynch their first criminal, or when the looting gangs start targeting the communities.

I've always said that Anarchism would follow a liberal period of communism, if only to get the communities into the way of self-sufficiency. Afterall, if a country wakes up to find no cops on the streets, no TV and no politicians to rule, what would happen? A nice way to look at the situation as a whole is to ask yourself what you would do. Sure, you'd have a party, probably get wasted and screw around, but on your drive to the petrol station, you find no fuel, no food. Thats when you'd start to freak out.

The idea of comfort is what keeps all western civilisations compliant and ultimately subservient, when they loose that comfort they become panicky, and this is what needs to be adressed before any kind of revolution. My own thought was to establish 'groups' in every region, to take control of the depots, make sure that food is distributed and so on. This would be a good idea, except imagine a team of four people attempting to feed the millions.

Anyway, we've all got our own ideas, to be sure, Anarchism is the best future we can hope for, but it'll take a lot of care to put into place.