What exactly is this anarchism thing anyway?

An introduction to anarchism by New Zealand anarchist group Wildcat, with which we do not necessarily agree but reproduce here for reference.

ANARCHISM is a personal and political philosophy based on the premise that no person has the right to have authority over another. We aren’t opposed to organisation, but insist that it should always be fully democratic and voluntary. Anarchists believe that if we want something better, we’ve got to make it ourselves, because no politician, business person or any other variety of boss is going to do it for us.

Traditionally, New Zealanders have looked to the government to ensure people get “a fair go”. Anarchists believe neither business nor government can provide properly for people, and call for everyone to work cooperatively in their communities and workplaces to do things for themselves.

Under anarchism, society would be organised by democratic communities which join together to work on projects of mutual benefit. It’s often pointed out that people naturally use anarchist methods without naming them as such, when they voluntarily help out neighbours and friends and come together to share each others tools and resources.

Capitalism insists that a free market, in which people buy the goods and services they choose, is an efficient way to run society, but few people would choose to charge a friend for advice or the loan of a lawnmower. Many women share childcare responsibilities with their friends and people often come together in groups to do voluntary work. Without this “everyday anarchism” life would be pretty miserable.

Anarchists don’t think people are saints – we just believe that people are basically cooperative and able to get along. Give a group of people a task and leave them to it and they usually manage to work cooperatively and efficiently. How often have you thought “This would be a lot easier if the boss would just stop telling us what to do...”? This is the essence of anarchism.

Anarchists say both capitalism and state socialism crush the individual and reward a small elite. We see the world being increasingly run for the benefit of business, with most people finding life more and more of a struggle and less free. While the rich get richer, things once taken for granted, such as people owning their own houses, are getting out of the reach of the majority. If you are young, and not one of a tiny elite, your life as an adult either starts with a badly-paid job with little hope of advancement or a student loan. If the latter, once you pay it off you may earn enough to start paying off a mortgage. Once that’s taken care of your kids can sell the house to pay for the costs of keeping you in a rest home. If you’re not lucky there’s not much on offer but a life spent desperately trying to pay the rent and bills.

At the same time as our expectations fall, government bureaucracy increasingly infringes on peoples’ lives making people feel smothered, overworked and bored. This frustration leads to angry and destructive behaviour which provides an excuse for even more rules and regulations.

We see our lives being increasingly pushed to be competitive, violent and stressful, and for many, pointless and deeply unsatisfying. There seems to be no alternative to a life mostly spent trying to make ends meet, in front of a PlayStation or TV, or resorting to alcohol or antidepressants, broken only by brief holidays. For the better off, travel and immersion in other cultures provides the colour and excitement that’s lacking in their own lives.

We think people deserve better. Of course, getting rid of capitalism and the state and instituting a cooperative society is going to take a bit of work, but do you really have anything more important to do?

The philosophy of anarchism is in many ways similar to the “green” movement, and many anarchists are involved with environmental campaigns and projects. We see the values and methods of capitalism as at odds with any sustainable way of life. Our opposition to authority and domination also leads us to become involved in feminist, anti-military and anti-colonial movements, unions and to oppose racism and abuse. Anarchists are also often involved in mutual aid projects such as community gardens, collective workshops, art and music groups and rural communes.

We also see similarities to anarchism in many indigenous societies. While on the surface they may often appear hierarchical, there is often a subtle system of checks and balances that ensure leaders must carefully represent peoples’ needs or quickly lose their authority.

Anarchists are often portrayed as violent – usually by governments which themselves maintain huge armies and stockpiles of weapons. Those who use violence at protests are often dubbed ‘anarchists’ by the media, whether they are or not, and our peaceful activities rarely hit the headlines. However, most anarchists accept that violence, while a form of authority, is permissible in self-defence. Some, such as War and Peace author and Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy, have been pacifists – believing that violence has dangerous consequences even when used in defence. Anarchists often point to the brutalising effect of even justifiable violence on both perpetrators and victims.

Anarchism offers hope, but to actually create a better world we need to get out and push. This means getting active with friends, neighbours and workmates to share and build and decide for ourselves what we want. And it means telling those who like to give orders to shove off – if we want something better, we’ve got to make it ourselves, because no politician, business-person or any other variety of boss is going to do it for us.

We all live on a planet full of the most amazing diversity of people and places, foods and forests. Human beings have flown to the moon, built buildings that reach the clouds and invented rotary milking sheds. At the moment, all this ingenuity, courage, labour and resources are being directed by a tiny minority to serve their own interests. Anarchism invites us to consider what could be achieved if we put all this into making everyone’s lives richer, happier and more sustainable. Instead of trying to dominate the planet, and each other, anarchism says we can work together to learn better ways to live.

ANARCHISM AND CULTURE

A few anarchists you might have heard of include linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky, fantasy writer Ursula Le Guin, film director Luis Bunuel, impressionist painter Camille Pissaro and comic writers Alan Moore (author of V for Vendetta and The Watchmen) and Leo Baxendale (the latter created The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx for The Beano). Anarchist band Chumbawumba’s song Tubthumping made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 20 most annoying songs ever and George Orwell wrote favourably of the anarchist revolution in 1930s Spain in Homage to Catalonia, an event which is also the subject of Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom.

Anarchism has strong associations with good food, as described in G. K. Chesterton’s amusing, if politically inaccurate, novel The Man Who Was Thursday. Many anarchists are active as hunter-gatherers and gleaners and some are dedicated vegetarian chefs. In Spain, the popularity of both anarchism and paella, a dish which gives rise to fierce debate about the ideal mix of its varied ingredients, and is traditionally eaten straight from a communal pan, have caused commentators to suggest a link.

Local anarchist culinary advances include the discovery of the peanut butter and creamed horseradish sandwich and the mussel and muttonbird pizza, popularising silverbeet and satay sauce lasagne and pioneering the use of tom yum paste as a toast spread.

Posted By

happychaos
Nov 29 2012 03:01

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  • ANARCHISM is a personal and political philosophy based on the premise that no person has the right to have authority over another. We aren’t opposed to organisation, but insist that it should always be fully democratic and voluntary.

    Wildcat (NZ)

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Comments

Chilli Sauce
Nov 29 2012 10:38

I don't totally get, but I do love those last two paragraphs.

This, however...

Quote:
Many anarchists are active as hunter-gatherers

ain't selling it to me.

ocelot
Nov 29 2012 11:31

I think the last two paragraphs were clearly written by quite stoned people with the munchies.

this

Quote:
In Spain, the popularity of both anarchism and paella, a dish which gives rise to fierce debate about the ideal mix of its varied ingredients, and is traditionally eaten straight from a communal pan, have caused commentators to suggest a link.

is pure bollocks.

Spikymike
Nov 29 2012 12:01

Of course it does include some common descriptions of what's wrong with life for most of us in capitalism and our abillity to co-operate with each other despite that experience but............
The attempt to make Anarchism sound just a part of everyday life as we know it, it's association with more popular literary figures (ignoring more relevant poltical analysts) and it's 'we are a really broad church which you could easily fit into' approach with its avoidance of all associations of independent class struggle and free communism (even by way of accurate description) make this a pretty poor show in need of a substantial rethink. It's authors presumably think that it's possible to somehow convince any average individual of 'the case for anarchism' with this kind of watered down propaganda but they are wasting their time. And to think this is attached to the 'Wildcat' label used by groups such those in Germany, Liverpool SolFed and my old group in the UK amongst others - there's really nothing 'wild' in this statement at all!

Sometimes it's necessary 'to be cruel to be kind'.

Chilli Sauce
Nov 29 2012 18:28

Yeah, I thought it was a bit broad as well.

FWIW, I think it comes down to a very activisty notion of anarchism: the idea we need to make anarchist converts as a priority as opposed to anarchists engaging, leading, and supporting struggles and then letting the political conversations follow from there.

happychaos
Nov 29 2012 22:08

I'll forward this page to the Author. As with anything, it is the target audience that determines the message.

SO

Sam Buchanan
Dec 4 2012 01:34

I think some people have missed the point of this leaflet - it was neither intended to convert people to anarchism nor to describe anarchism as a broad church (though I don't think that would be a false statement). It's an attempt to pre-empt people forming an opinion of anarchism from rare and pejorative descriptions in the capitalist media.

"it's association with more popular literary figures (ignoring more relevant poltical analysts)"

I wonder who you are thinking of? The last section was intended to give undermine the media image of anarchists as either hoodlums or frothing at the mouth, obsessive and humourless leftist zealots, and to bring up a few names people might of heard of in other contexts, given few people here are likely to have heard of recent anarchist activists or writers.

"I think the last two paragraphs were clearly written by quite stoned people with the munchies."

No, we just like yummy things.

"Many anarchists are active as hunter-gatherers"

Quite true in the local context.

"In Spain, the popularity of both anarchism and paella,..."

Meant to be tongue in cheek, but I have heard the link being made.

"the idea we need to make anarchist converts as a priority as opposed to anarchists engaging, leading, and supporting struggles and then letting the political conversations follow from there."

I'm not too fussed about making converts, but I do think ideas matter. In New Zealand the last ten years have been dominated by 'leading by example/engagement in struggle" strategies and we've little to show for it. Mostly its led to anarchists becoming involved in reformist struggles (which they sometimes pretend are 'radical', then get disillusioned when it becomes obvious they aren't), which have sometimes succeeded, and have made a difference to some people, but have rarely led to people feeling empowered to go further, or to raise political debates that go beyond more reformism.

Incidentally, I never liked the name 'Wildcat', so I wouldn't defend our use of it. Doesn't really mean anything to anyone in New Zealand other than a miniscule minority versed in labour history. To most people it would suggest an environmentally destructive introduced pest species.

Chilli Sauce
Dec 4 2012 01:56
Quote:
It's an attempt to pre-empt people forming an opinion of anarchism from rare and pejorative descriptions in the capitalist media.

That sort of does sound like trying to make converts

Quote:
"Many anarchists are active as hunter-gatherers"

Quite true in the local context.

Might be true, but so what. It has nothing to do with anarchism, so why include it? It's lifestylist and there's no reason to have it in there.

Arbeiten
Dec 4 2012 02:07
Sam Buchanan wrote:

Quite true in the local context.

you guys still hunter gathering over there? man. tough break....

Sam Buchanan
Dec 4 2012 02:36

"That sort of does sound like trying to make converts"

Well, I'd like people to have a positive view of anarchism, so they don't immediately reject the ideas (or activists) if they come across them. I meant I didn't expect people to read a leaflet and go "Wow! that's for me..." I'd certainly like there to be more anarchists around.

"It has nothing to do with anarchism, so why include it? It's lifestylist and there's no reason to have it in there."

well, strictly speaking, anarchism is a methodology for societal decision-making. I could write a leaflet purely about that, but I don't think many people would want to read it. I'd say the creativity and variety of lifestyles anarchists practice would to be something people find attractive about the movement.

"you guys still hunter gathering over there? man. tough break.... "

Nope - once again - yummy! And a traditional autonomous working class activity!

Chilli Sauce
Dec 4 2012 10:43

You know what would make me reject anarchism? Anything that suggests hunting and gathering is somehow related to it.

Quote:
well, strictly speaking, anarchism is a methodology for societal decision-making. I could write a leaflet purely about that, but I don't think many people would want to read it. I'd say the creativity and variety of lifestyles anarchists practice would to be something people find attractive about the movement.

Well, maybe there won't be agreement if your concern is to put across the "lifestyles" of anarchist.

Do you know how often I tell people I'm an anarchist? As little as possible.

What I do try to do is support my workmates, friends, and aquaitences when they're have having problems at work or with their landlord or securing benefits. I try and help them collectivise those problems and fight back back. Sometimes, from there, we'll have deeper political conversations when I try to show that the way they've organised and the goals they've have are compatible with anarchism. But fundamentally the politics are shown through the practice.

What I'm saying is that anarchism isn't a lifestyle, it's a method for fighting (and hopefully) winning battles in the class war. If we relate to the class as "I'm an anarchist and this is my lifestyle", we're going to stay a marginalised, innefective, and alienating minority.

888
Dec 4 2012 19:28
ocelot wrote:
I think the last two paragraphs were clearly written by quite stoned people with the munchies.

this

Quote:
In Spain, the popularity of both anarchism and paella, a dish which gives rise to fierce debate about the ideal mix of its varied ingredients, and is traditionally eaten straight from a communal pan, have caused commentators to suggest a link.

is pure bollocks.

I do remember reading a story about "the largest paella in the world", cooked in an anarchist village in the civil war.

Sam Buchanan
Dec 6 2012 01:38

"You know what would make me reject anarchism? Anything that suggests hunting and gathering is somehow related to it."

Bizarre. I can only suppose you don't live in a place where such activities are considered both pleasant and, to some extent, an expression of independence from capitalism.

"Do you know how often I tell people I'm an anarchist? As little as possible. "

Fair enough. Personally I quite like associating myself with a historical movement of class struggle and resistance to oppression, and I quite like people knowing such a movement has existed and has sometimes been strong and partially successful. They might even find it inspiring.

"What I'm saying is that anarchism isn't a lifestyle"

Nobody suggested it was. See my previous comment.

ocelot
Dec 6 2012 11:38
888 wrote:
ocelot wrote:
I think the last two paragraphs were clearly written by quite stoned people with the munchies.

this

Quote:
In Spain, the popularity of both anarchism and paella, a dish which gives rise to fierce debate about the ideal mix of its varied ingredients, and is traditionally eaten straight from a communal pan, have caused commentators to suggest a link.

is pure bollocks.

I do remember reading a story about "the largest paella in the world", cooked in an anarchist village in the civil war.

"Paella" is Catalan for pan. The ingredients are rice and whatever you have to hand that is tasty and/or has some protein. Fry the latter in the pan, stir in the rice, add water or stock, wait for the rice to cook - et voila, paella. Generally you put the pan on the table in front of the assembled family and guests and people spoon out a serving from the pan into your plate.

In many village festivals they get out a huge pan (5ft, 6ft, etc) and cook in the village square and then people queue up and get a plate or bowl of it.

What you do not do is "eat straight from the communal pan".

Sam Buchanan
Dec 7 2012 03:51

"What you do not do is "eat straight from the communal pan".

Wikipedia reckons you do, for whatever that's worth:

"According to tradition in Valencia, paella is cooked by men over an open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine cones. This produces an aromatic smoke which infuses the paella. Also, dinner guests traditionally eat directly out of the paellera." (citing the Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson)