Monday, November 3, 2008

What is Anarchism?

The fact that most of us have to work for someone else everyday just to earn a living is pretty weird. We are born, schooled (if we’re lucky), and then we get to work all our lives, slaving for a wage and for a decent existence. Then, the little ‘lesuire time’ we get costs us too, both in monetary terms, and mentally — we are either escaping work, delaying work, or killing time until we have to go back to work. Work is never far from ones mind.

And that's just individual problems! Think about larger, social issues — even things here in NZ — the latest string of factories closing with massive job losses, firms like ANZ shipping work off overseas, petrol and food prices rising all the time, more crime, housing problems, and poverty. Likewise, around the world there are millions in massive poverty, yet there’s enough food to feed us all 3 TIMES OVER. Workers in sweatshops earning $2 a day while others don’t even need to work at all. Not to mention war, sexism, racism, genocide, torture, violence, and the ever growing environmental and economic crisis.

This life we live is a natural product of a system known as CAPITALISM, a system that exploites, pillages and destroys — and is based on principles of greed, profit, expansion and competition. It’s the cause of our current ills in society, yet most continue to accept it as normal.

So? It works for me...
If by working you mean slaving for a wage all your life, then yes, it’s working. Because while you and I work for a wage, as does the majority of the world, a tiny few really get to enjoy and control life. 40% of the world’s population has access to 3% of the worlds revenue. This means that while most of us work in factories, malls, shops — any workplace where there’s a boss — someone else, not us, is benefiting from our labour, while we have no real say on where and how the money from the stuff we make gets used.

So what happens with that money? As workers we get a little back in wages (not much), and some of it covers materials and costs, but the rest, as profit, goes into the pockets of the company owner and its shareholders, who didn’t do any work but get the bigger share.

This is the nature of the Capitalist system all over the world, and it is made to seem normal to us. This is because if we don’t think its messed up, that small elite of people get to keep benefiting, in both PROFIT and DECISION MAKING, and not us.

Capitalism is enforced physically by the government — the laws they make, and the police who enforce those laws — while the media, news, advertising and the education system make us think its ok. These institutions are known as THE STATE. So really there are two problems with this system, CAPITALISM and THE STATE, which are interconnected and working together to make sure we don’t kick up a stink about it all. However, there are alternatives to this system, which require (now more than ever) our collective attention.

Anarchists believe that most problems in life exist because a minority get to tell others what to do, that ANY POWER EXPLOITS, as does any kind of HIERARCHY. It would be better if you and I made the decisions that directly effected us, and not someone else. That way we wouldn’t need a state or government telling us what to do, and we could get rid of Capitalism and share out goods and profits for the benefit of us all.

This is often countered by some as advocating ‘chaos’. In fact, Anarchism is not about disorder at all, but order. Its all about organising differently to what we do now. It’s against rulers, not rules. The reason it is made out to be ‘extremist’ or ‘chaotic’ is because those in power want to stay that way (politicians, bosses, corporations). They realise that the practical, logical ideas of Anarchism threaten their positions of power, because Anarchism means we wouldn’t need them at all.

Put simply, it’s about deciding for ourselves how best to run our community and our workplace — without any kind of boss telling us how — and that the PERSONAL is POLITICAL. It means working together to figure out stuff that directly effects us, because we should all get a say in how we work and how we live. It means SELF-MANAGEMENT — we do it in most aspects of our own lives already. This could be expanded to all aspects of life, on a personal as well as a broader level.

“But we need leaders!” Don't we?
No one has the right to manage or control another! For example, put a group of people in a room with a task to do. Logically they would go about it together, all sharing the problem, figuring out who is good at what, who can’t do something, and get it done. Vary rarely would they choose one person to make all the decisions, and then let that person tell everyone else what to do, with a limited window of opportunity every four years to object. No one has the right to dominion over another, yet isn’t this how society currently works?

“Without Police and the Government there would be crime!”
Think about what the police actually do. They hardly ever prevent crime, but respond after it’s happened. Most crime is based on greed — wanting something people don’t have, or because a large section of our society is poor and desperate. If we had everything we needed it would be logical that most crime would dissapear. Therefore crime is actually a PRODUCT of capitalism. In fact, the worst kind of crime — war, torture, genocide — are committed by GOVERNMENTS, not us. All police really do as an institution is protect the state and their interests.

Sadly, all of this takes place under the political system we call ‘Democracy’. Yet when we vote, all we get to do is choose between options given to us, whether it’s the prime minister, a political party, or their policy. But they always make the options we have to choose between, not us. Its like saying you can choose, but only between Pepsi or Cola.

Real democracy is DIRECT, by you and me. That’s when we decide what the choices are, and what should be done — at home and at work. Real change (not reform) has happened because people themselves took action, acting together as a strong, united group. Workers rights, ending Segregation, Land rights, Womens rights — all achieved by people like you through DIRECT ACTION, not political parties. Voting changes absolutely nothing. Until the system itself changes, nothing will truly change.

Anarchism is based on the idea of the federation and association of free individuals. This means when we need to decide on things which are bigger than just our immediate areas, we would involve other groups who are effected also. Obviously we can’t all go, so we could send a couple of us as our 'delegates'. These people want the best for us, because they are us, they are from our groups and want the same things as us (unlike politicians). They are not permanent or seperate, but rotating members of the group. If they didn’t do a good job, or mis-represented us, we could recall and replace them at any time.

Our delagates have NO power to decree at all, meaning all decisions are made democratically by all, with equal input for all, for the benefit of all. Our delegates merely administer the decisions made earlier as a group.

This same idea works in greater society from the bottom-up, so communities, workplaces, industries — any group — all FREELY ASSOCIATE together to help each other out. Think of society as many circles overlapping, and decision making from the periphial to the centre — rather than the traditional ‘pyramid’ image we’ve been constructed to adhere to. It can be done locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, between all aspects of life.

For more on Anarchism please download my free zine Rivet.

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