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some misunderstandings concerning anarchism
by Weia Reinboud
Originally published in Dutch as 'Tijd voor de
by ATALANTA, 1991
Translated by P'tje
(With thanks to Al, Pierre, Ralph and Tony)
This booklet is about anarchism. About what, in my view, anarchism is not, and about what it could be. About anarchism which is, if you ask me, the most cheerful ism there is.
This is not a complete handbook, not a collection of dogmas, there's no effort to disclose the One and Only Scientific Anarchism, nor the main points of orthodox anarchism. The opinions that are put forward are my personal opinions, though, happily, discussions with others have contributed quite a lot.
The attraction of anarchism can be demonstrated in at least three ways.
The first is simply to say: 'choose anarchism because I do, and I do so because anarchism pleases me'. This common way of recommending something in advertising tells you hardly anything. Because people who find isms other than anarchism attractive, will drop their own ism only when they no longer find their own ism attractive. The 'advertisement' mentioned above simply contains too little to make them find their ism unattractive.
The second way to try to kindle enthusiasm is by giving much explanation of what anarchism is, and aims for. Would that work? Recruit? It just depends. Explaining an ism is usually done by using the special language of that ism, and generally this results in arguments which are of limited validity: only those who are already anarchists understand why certain arguments demonstrate the attraction of anarchism. Something which can only be understood by the converts is quite useless of course. (By the way, what I'm saying here applies to all isms. It seldom occurs that everybody understands everything that is asserted by others. Nearly everyone continuously talks to the converts, and others dismiss it., partly because they are not willing to hear others, partly because they do not understand them, and even more can't be understood, because they speak a different language.)
The third way consists of offering morsels that will not be found tasty by anarchists only. Because tastes differ it will not always be easy, but it may be worth while making an attempt nevertheless.
These are the three ways to demonstrate the attraction of anarchism. It will be clear which of these ways I myself want to use in this booklet. I will do this by raising some questions and propositions that will hopefully stimulate minds. In particular I will say something about all sorts of misunderstandings that exist concerning anarchism. The misunderstandings that there are among non-anarchist people can also be found in anarchist circles.
I write down everything in a rather compact way. On the one hand to keep the booklet thin, on the other because I do not always like extensive ruminating. Anarchism requires that people use their brains themselves, and although independent thinking isn't a thing that is taught at school, by my way of writing I take it for granted that the written stuff will be thought over. You shouldn't accept anything unthinkingly, but also: you shouldn't reject anything without giving it any thought.
After the introductory sentences here is PROPOSITION 1: 'you can't talk about THE anarchism'. There are, as in other isms, lots of small separate movements. Some movements may even move in entirely opposite directions to each other! I could constantly try to make all these movements appear under the spotlight one after the other, but I won't do so. I put into words what I know the best, and that is my own form of anarchism. Other people who call themselves anarchists will, I think, not always recognize themselves in what I write, but hopefully that doesn't make them blind for the possible new, stimulating things that can be found in this booklet.
O.K., let's start for real now.
Dictatorship is when a very small number of people determine what everyone must do. Democracy is when the majority determines what everybody must do. It is obvious that another question can crop up: is it possible to live together in a way in which more than just the majority determine what every one must do? My answer to this is in PROPOSITION 2: 'anarchism asserts that it is possible that everyone determines what everybody does'.
That in a dictatorship almost everybody is discontented goes without saying. Because in democracy many more people are satisfied than in a dictatorship, democracy is thought to be better. That goes without saying too. From that it doesn't follow however that democracy is the end. You can still want more - but not everybody thinks this is obvious. That's why in making anarchism attractive some attention has to be paid to the concept of democracy.
PROPOSITION 3: 'the enumeration of the advantages of democracy always compares democracy to dictatorship'. I dare say that it shows democracy in a favorable light. PROPOSITION 4 puts this straight: 'all advantages of democracy are of course the same advantages of anything better than dictatorship'.
But what about the disadvantages of democracy? And aren't there a lot of movements within democracism? Sure, certainly. Seeing how business here has been organized leads to PROPOSITION 5: 'evidently something called democracy can be said to exist even when a substantial part of life, like industry, isn't arranged democratically, that is when there are still all sorts of dictatorial features present'. I would expect that democracists will only be really satisfied when nothing in life is put together dictatorially anymore, but evidently I am mistaken. (That doesn't matter because I was already in favor of something nicer than democracy anyway).
In dictatorships, besides resistance, you also see a lot of apathy from people. After all there is not much sense in thinking a lot about how you want to arrange your life, because others are continually imposing on you the way you have to live. Always making plans which can never be realized may become boring, or may even start to feel unpleasant.
And what about democracy? Look at a real democracy, one that is much better than present democracies, one in which everything is arranged democratically, PROPOSITION 6 applies even then: 'in democracies all decisions always have something mediocre about them'. For when opinions on a subject are divided, a majority for an opinion that differs much from the common place can never be found. This has advantages and disadvantages, which in the following will be made clear.
When somewhere something new, something progressive is conceived, that new idea is present in exactly one head. In being passed on, the new idea has to be continually mulled over for a while by people who hear it for the first time, just thought over for some time. It has to be considered if the new idea suits those who come to hear it. This consideration needs time and consequently nothing can ever cross the world quickly. That is inevitable, and whether you like it or not is irrelevant anyway. A consequence of the more or less slow spread of something new is that you will always see divided opinions when looking around. Some have progressive ideas, some have regressive ideas, and the rest are somewhere in between.
It follows that in a democracy a majority decision has always to lead to dissatisfaction for at least one of the wings. This dissatisfaction can lead to resistance, but, like in a dictatorship, apathy can arise too. When you continually think up new things which will never lead quickly to a majority decision and/or will get through to the majority only in a diluted form, then it may become boring and lead to an unpleasant feeling. For those who come up with new ideas a democracy can likewise feel as 'dictatorship of the majority'. Once more this leads to the realization that democracy and dictatorship resemble each other more than the democracists grasp. Can't things be done better?
Dictatorship is: where there is always domination over another. The opposite of this is: where there is no domination at all. In between comes: where there is sometimes domination and sometimes not. Where there is no domination over another can refer to all sorts of situations. From completely living without any real contact with others (a form of egoism, a form of not bearing others in mind) to the opposite of that. A question that keeps me busy is what that opposite would be. Complete altruism? Anarchism? A beautiful form of liberalism?
Liberalism doesn't get involved here without reason. Liberalism and democracy are often seen as twins. Moreover, liberalism talks a lot about freedom - just like anarchism. Although the freedom mostly mentioned by recent liberals is the freedom of enterprise (and thereby of exploitation), it is still possible that there are liberal movements that lead to a happier world. There have been liberal parties in the past which advocated unilateral disarmament, and were in favor of less right-wing sounding ideas. And a classical liberal expression on freedom is: 'the freedom of one ends where the freedom of the other starts'. That doesn't sound like exploitation, but along the lines of 'always bearing others in mind', doesn't it? Indeed it doesn't. I have written in 'HOE KOMEN KRINGEN IN HET WATER' on how far apart the liberal and anarchist views on 'freedom' are. I will not repeat that here. Life according to 'the freedom of one ends where the freedom of the other starts' can lead to a complete improvement in the state of the world, but my conclusion in 'KRINGEN' was that there is something in this liberal view that is still at right angles with what seems desirable to me.
Why do ordinary democratic liberals and other democrats sometimes rule? Why do they sometimes not bear others in mind? The advantage of the latter is very easy to denote: the moment something very annoying - something very disgusting - is likely to happen, it can be suppressed by using a corresponding ban. An example can be seen in the issue of whether freedom of speech also applies to expressing (neo) fascist opinions. In my view a real liberal answer would be 'yes' but in the democratic practice the answer is more often 'no', the advantage being that you don't see many fascist texts. Long live democracy! - yes or no?
It seems that people of the 'where there is no domination over another' persuasion can't do anything about fascist scribblings (just to stick to this example), apart from being angry.
Anger has fairly often led to the placing of bombs and to other acts of violence. But these are forms of 'not bearing others in mind'! And with this I come to MISUNDERSTANDING 1: 'anarchists are bomb-throwers'. I can't make much progress by stating that many anarchist people have never thrown a bomb and have never done anything violent, since that would just reduce the misunderstanding to: 'some anarchists are bomb-throwers.' and that is, in my opinion, still a misunderstanding.
I think it is different. 'Anarchy' as a word literally means 'no ruler' and so is meant for a situation without rule. Now it seems to me a very clear example of ruling when by making use of a bomb you blow others to kingdom come. That's why I simply state that throwing bombs can never be an anarchist action. Misunderstanding 1 by this has become PROPOSITION 7: 'it is possible that people are anarchists for most of the time, but the moment they throw a bomb, they aren't engaged with anarchism'. In my opinion the 'anarchism of action' (where action means bombing), that was a trend less than a century ago, does not belong to anarchism.(This opinion boils down to: means and ends should correspond. But I let this pass now.)
It is a pity that many non-anarchist people think that an excess should determine the outlook of the whole, but that is not going to make me look for a replacing word for anarchism. ('Libertarianism' and 'free socialism' are two of those replacing words.) By the way: if it is sound to think that the whole is contaminated by an excess, then it is sound to label any Christian a genocidist, any Muslim a writer-murderer and so on. This logic is not mine.
How some self proclaimed anarchists have come to throwing bombs, I have already said. PROPOSITION 8 summarizes this: 'anarchism has no ways to stem the tide of fascist scribblings and has no ways to stop an extreme pain in the neck'. Getting beside yourself with rage doesn't really help of course! Does it follow from that that anarchism is a lousy ism? No. PROPOSITION 9: 'because anarchism doesn't give a solution for everything it doesn't mean anarchism offers no solution to anything'.
Just to dot the i's and cross the t's. There is a certain kind of compelling (and sloganeering) behavior of some activists that makes me wonder if it is an attempt not to rule in some way, but nevertheless, at the same time, without much explanation, push certain changes on others. (I'm not here talking about those actions which to a lesser or greater degree directly ask for a ban on this or that. Of these it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that they aren't anarchist actions). Ruling is direct compelling, actually threatening with violence. Any other form of threat, or compulsion, can be seen as a derivation of that in one way or another. Does this mean that any form of compulsion is a form of ruling? ^o stimulate the discussion I say: yes. (Otherwise I would say: it is a form of despair about the by definition slow character of the dissemination of ideas.)
Note: in the previous paragraph I did NOT mean to say that you should cautiously approach people who have (in your view) annoying opinions. That would be the polite form of bearing-others-in-mind and politeness is not really my cup of tea. But you should consider the fact that you can't pump your thoughts into other heads just like that. In general it requires a lot of effort to find out how a thought that never has occurred to another might penetrate. It seems to me that brainwashing can never be a solution.
In the previous paragraphs I have actually been talking about MISUNDERSTANDING 2: 'activism is anarchism'. (Activism here means being engaged in left-wing actions.) Although quite a lot of anarchist people are active in actions the opposite needn't necessarily be the case. By no means all actions are anarchist and to my mind with quite a lot of actions, an ` is too frivolously being used. In my view an action can never be more than a form of advertising in favor of an idea unknown to many people. As with other adverts the influence of an action doesn't penetrate deeply, and without a more profound continuity an action doesn't make much sense. (Note: agitating and advertising can't be put in one box. Both are forms of the propagation of a message, but with actions this comes right from the bottom of the heart, while with advertising this is seldom the case. But the Latin word reclamare meant 'exclaiming loudly' and 'protesting aloud'. The latter suits agitating well and not current advertising!)
I have been wandering off a bit from writing about the disadvantages of democracy. As a disadvantage I have mentioned that democratic decisions are always attached to something mediocre and I have asserted that consequently apathy/laziness in thinking may be a side effect of democracy. There's yet another disadvantage, which needn't necessarily be attached to all forms of democracy.
That a dictatorship is something totalitarian is obvious. That democracy can show totalitarian characteristics is less obvious. I'm talking about those forms of democracy in which that 'what isn't permitted is prohibited' applies. Quite a lot of democracists not only want to think up rules for excesses, but for truly everything. Result: by rules all kinds of novelties, all kinds of experiments are being hindered -something I experience almost daily. In this way the (totalitarian) democracy willfully discourages progressive ideas, which is going a step further than to say that democratic decisions are always mediocre. (Democracy is often called 'liberal democracy', but it seems to me that a real liberal democracy would never demonstrate the totalitarian features mentioned above. I don't however hear liberals protesting much, so I might be mistaken in their anti-totalitarianism. Either that or they are mistaken in what liberalism can be.)
From the willing to rule tendency of certain democrats I can jump to MISUNDERSTANDING 3: 'anarchy means chaos, anarchists are chaoticists'. First comment: non-anarchist people can only imagine that a situation without leadership will be chaotic, which is short-sighted. In a situation with leadership the case is that the leaders think up how it has to be, and that leadership consists of people. If anarchy is chaos then non- anarchy has to be chaos as well, for that is apparently human. Anyhow, I don't see why it should be an advantage when only a few (executives) think.
Further comment: for some a strong point of anarchism is that it takes for granted that everybody can think themselves, for others this is exactly the weak point. The problem is of course the possibility that amidst (anarchist) people inventing pleasant things, some people of different persuasion can spoil the whole. The solution of non-anarchists is to impose authority, and to think up rules, and coercive measures when something isn't successful. Anarchist people think that such a solution of the problem however is asking for trouble. The biggest problem is that coercion makes people stubborn and otherwise troublesome. Other problems include the tendency to apathy, or the tendency to ban anything that isn't explicitly allowed. In a really good democracy these tendencies are however much less or even absent, and I want to compare anarchism with the best possible democracy and not with the rotten mess that is called democracy now. When I talk about 'democracy' in future, I consequently mean something that doesn't exist (yet): a society where what is prohibited is malicious according to the opinion of the majority. Think of: murder, assaulting women, charging interest (?!), wanting to send certain population-groups away, causing acid rain, dumping waste in nature, and still much more. And when I talk about 'anarchy', I talk about a situation where malicious behavior is absent without prohibitions, as it were 'by itself'. That 'by itself' is in quotation-marks, because by itself doesn't really happen by itself most of the time.
Still more comments about MISUNDERSTANDING 3: non-anarchist people mean by the word anarchy 'any situation without ruling', while anarchist people mean 'a situation without coercion'. That isn't a subtle difference. For in most cases where non-anarchist people talk about anarchy, it's about cases of plundering, civil war and more of that unsavouriness. According to anarchist people these are cases of coercion, and so these can't possibly be called 'anarchy'. I would be pleased if non-anarchist people would stop using the word anarchy, and if its interpretation was left to those who have made an ism of anarchy!
Further with the comment. Unsavory chaos doesn't fit anarchy, but is there any chaos which isn't unsavory? When people want to dive into chaos, not the slightest obstacle should be put in their way, but it doesn't follow from that that anarchy should be chaos. Because people who want to think for themselves, will also think for example about co-operation. Co-operation can be very unchaotic, can't it?
How can it be possible then that quite a lot of anarchist stuff does indeed pass off chaotically, and that some self-proclaimed anarchists even take pride in their chaoticism? PROPOSITION 10: 'where conflicting opinions are side by side, chaos can easily occur'. This proposition applies to the opinions of different people (chaotic co-operation can then occur) as well as when you're talking about the opinions which co-exist in one brain (a chaotic person can then come into being). You can handle adjacent opinions in three ways. The authoritarian way is to force something. You can however also leave opinions side by side, which is the second way. Chaos is then what you get, which means: less happens than you would like. The third way is to figure out where the differences are and after that see if one of the different opinions is preferable.
I myself have a strong preference for the third way. Just leaving opinions side by side (and the dull and/or chaotic situations that may be inherent in that) hardly appeals to me. To be provocative I will follow this with PROPOSITION 11: 'where anarchism and chaos go hand in hand you can speak of a variant of apathy that characterizes many non-anarchist people'. Said differently: I don't see why laziness in thought should belong to anarchism. From the anarchist preference that every person thinks for themselves it doesn't however follow that people should therefore have to think, but you can very well disseminate the idea that there is no harm in thinking a lot. In other contexts I have said it more often: start philosophy gangs!
Just to digress. PROPOSITION 12: 'leaving opinions side by side has rather more to do with liberalism than with anarchism'. I become slightly nauseous at the frequent comment 'you have to respect others' or 'tolerance is important', with which you're often brow-beaten in these liberal regions. Leaving others free, yes obviously, as a matter of course, what else do you want. But it doesn't follow from this that you should run into a non-committal attitude. What is generally meant by respecting and tolerating is that you aren't allowed to say anything about what others do. I do understand that this disallowance is an attempt to avoid authoritarianism. But I see better methods. Criticizing isn't by definition the same as saying that another MUST do this or that. That it is often thought that these things are by definition stuck to each other seems to me the result of life in a more or less open authoritarian environment. (And of having received an authoritarian upbringing.) In a non-authoritarian environment however, there is always the choice between either leaving different opinions side by side or having a long talk about the differences. Neither of these is authoritarian, but the first leads to more living without any real contact and the second to living more together.
I would even go further with PROPOSITION 13:' sending criticism into the world is the only way anarchist people have to tackle excesses like fascism'. With your criticism you don't however directly prevent another from having fascist thoughts (although even fascist people can change,), but you do send ideas into the world which in themselves can prevent even more fascism coming into being. Besides, it's necessary I think that your criticism complies with all requirements - slogans are too feeble. And again this is a reason to start philosophy groups. The more you talk together about something, the better you will put your criticism into words, and the greater the chance is that what you dislike so much now in future doesn't come into being. (Taking into account that (neo) fascism is of course only one of the many examples.)
I'll say something more about the possible authoritarian aspects of criticizing others. The other day I was sitting in the train in which there was a mother with two children, named J and J, who was almost continuously busy with those children in an authoritarian way. The children did hardly anything but nevertheless there was a reason for the denim suited (so not so right-wing looking) mother to give a 'J and J, come and sit here', or a 'J and J, listen to what your mother says.' (When she said: 'I'll say this only once more' I thought 'ha, terrific', but I think she meant something different,) What struck me so strongly wasn't even the tremendous old-fashionedness of that upbringing, but particularly that authoritarian methods aren't coupled with giving explanations. A difference of opinion between the children and her will probably survive, even when the children indeed do what she commands. (The problems later in puberty can already be felt germinating.) Thus being authoritarian is a form of shifting problems to the future. An anarchist approach to dealing with children (from 0 to 116) is very different of course. I think that there can be three sides to that: no commanding; giving explanation on what you're asking or remarking; and not evading discussions. Leave those latter two points aside and you're quickly saddled with a non-committal attitude (a form of chaos). And that I called liberal in proposition 12.
Expressing criticism is important I think, see among others proposition 13. But with quite a lot of people in these regions criticism is experienced as moralistic. PROPOSITION 14: 'moralism, if existing at all, can't be part of anarchist people'. For when someone passes on criticism, in whatever pedantic tone that might be done, that criticism doesn't absolutely affect you unless you see anything substantially interesting in it. The reverse is also true: if there is anything substantial in criticism then you can just pick that up cheerfully. Why do so many people get on their high horses when they're criticized? I have a simple opposing opinion about this: where people think something is moralistic it is because they recognize the logic of the criticism (that is to say: it is the same logic as they have in their head), but nevertheless they don't want to do anything with the criticism (that is to say: in fact they want to leave illogicality exposed as it is in their head). Result: they feel themselves in a fix, and for that they blame the one who is criticizing. Because being in a fix feels unfree they think that the other wants to rule over them or something like that. If you ask me this is quite nonsensical. This is a way of thinking that doesn't happen with anarchist people (at least it needn't happen).
I think enough has been said for now about chaos (with the accompanying chaos of digressions). Anarchist people needn't be chaotic, anarchist co-operation needn't be made impossible by chaos, authoritarian solutions are never necessary. Profoundness is a beautiful alternative to chaos as well as to authoritarianism.
So now to something that I think is a misunderstanding, even though a lot of anarchist people will find that peculiar. MISUNDERSTANDING 4: 'anarchism is an ethical ism, based on the idea that people are good in their hearts'. I think that it isn't necessary at all to state that people are good. Or bad. What will do is this: people have the potential to serve all sorts of purposes. They have the potential to torment others, or to sweat or whatsoever. They have the potential to sacrifice themselves. They also have the potential however to deal with each other and the world in attractive ways, which are to my liking. Beware of the word liking!
It is not a question of choosing the good when you strive for an anarchist world. It is often only a question of logic. If you don't want to be ruled then you do the right thing(!)not being in for domination yourself, because you might just suggest an idea to others. If you would like to see certain ideas to disappear and if you like to see your ideas being spread over the world, then the best thing to do is to leave the stage of sloganeering. And so on.
Thus it will often look as if you're doing 'the right thing', but I still assert that it isn't the right thing but the smartest thing. Even when this smartest thing coincides with the phrase used (or being used) in many cultures 'do unto others as you would want others do unto you'. If you see in that the right thing then you act as if it is some kind of favor that you don't nag others, for you might actually nag after all. In my opinion it is however no favor. I myself don't feel like being worried and consequently I'm smart enough not to provoke nagging. The simplest way is to live in such a way that another is shown how it can also be done. Perhaps in this way others might hit upon an idea. Anyhow, meanwhile a kind of peace, 'logical peace', comes into my own life and that is so much to the good. That gives me time to think more on how the world can be made (more) anarchist. More over it isn't of any use for me to push a certain ethical way of thinking, for the idea that people would be good is refuted daily.
It is also useless for me to assert 'that people are alienated'. By that I would impute a universal truth to my ideas and I really don't see any reason to pretend that you can see through a brick wall. Besides, you don't make any progress at all when others are supposed to be alienated, for the nature of alienation is exactly that 'truth' can't be seen. Saying that alienation comes into play is of no use in such a case. Instead simply try to make your criticism public in as many ways as possible, and perhaps you'll find a way that has never been tried and which suddenly proves to lead to a change. Any ensuing attempt is one.
MISUNDERSTANDING 5: 'anarchism as an ideal is very nice, but in practice it can't work'. There can be more than meets the eye when people come out with this misunderstanding. Something of the kind that 'people simply need rules'. To that I reply: 'oh, if YOU need rules, then I'm willing to make them for you freely!' Or there is something behind it like 'there will always be people who'll continue to be obstructive'. To this I answer: 'do you belong to those who put their shoulders to the wheel to prevent that, or do you belong to those who feebly leave things in a mess?' Or there is behind it: 'how about when you suddenly open up prisons, turn the economy upside down, and so on?' To that I'll reply: 'anarchist solutions only work for anarchist people, so 'suddenly' opening the prisons can only be put into practice when anarchist people are overflowing, otherwise non-anarchist people would prevent it by force: your question consequently is the wrong one.'
MISUNDERSTANDING 6: 'anarchism is by definition against the grain'. There will certainly be anarchist people who get stuck in constantly reacting. There are those who constantly shout 'destruction, destruction'. And certainly there are also those who think that they have to react constantly to the mediocrity. But in my opinion then you're still stuck in the existing situation, in the mediocrity. Anarchism is a heap of endeavors on how the world can be in future. Getting to the bottom of that, and in the meantime already living to that as much as possible will undoubtedly make you appear contrary in the eyes of the rest, but that isn't the same as taking the average as a standard which you oppose.
And then MISUNDERSTANDING 7: 'the fact that anarchism is difficult, isn't something to become cheerful about'. Looking around in anarchist circles you would sometimes agree. They're mainly busy with what they are opposed to and not with what they are in favor of. To be against everything under the sun is a matter of course in this world, but when you let your mood be spoiled by that, then there's something the matter. Then you let others (the 'bad ones', the 'enemy') as a bonus on top of their destruction also rule over your mood. I would never take that! I simply think that building a more beautiful world, on freedom, hence on anarchy, is a beautiful thing and every small step makes me glad. Of course I would like to see that everything went much faster, but if it doesn't work then it simply doesn't work for some time. That I keep on striving is what it's all about. The cheerful face that belongs to that, seems to me the best possible 'advertising' for anarchism.
MISUNDERSTANDING 8: 'anarchist people never agree with each other'. I only think 'oh' when I hear that. I think it is very sound not to change your opinion if you see no reason to do that. No dilution, no compromises, and so on. But it doesn't follow from that that you never change your opinion, or that willingness to change would be something miserable, or that talking about differences in opinions couldn't be fun. It's a fact that anarchism isn't just made up of simple dogmas to run after. Anarchist people don't subordinate themselves to The Line, to The Group, to The Front, to The Goal, so there are different opinions. You shouldn't gloss over it.
MISUNDERSTANDING 9: 'anarchist people can't co-operate'. Again an 'oh' is applicable. From the previous misunderstanding it follows at most that anarchist people who disagree can't co-operate. I think it is sound to leave co-operation undone as long as you disagree! (That non-anarchist people once in a while state that you can't co-operate with anarchists, seems to me an expression of them always expecting subordination, compliance, or even servility.)
Up to now this booklet deals particularly with what anarchism is not. What anarchism is and might be only emerges at a tangent. About this I want to write some more.
Is anarchism an ism that, just like liberalism, emphasizes that the individual is so important? My answer is: no. Is anarchism then a social theory? Again I answer: no! With both no's I use myself as a measure. I get a very uneasy feeling with liberal tinted writings in which the individual is constantly considered to be so important. At the same time I get an uncomfortable feeling with everything that makes it seem as if the human being is a small link in something bigger. Chess-pieces in the class struggle, standing up for the country, sacrificing themselves for The Future of Humanity, and so on.
Isn't it contradictory to answer 'no' twice? I can only find one way to avoid the contradiction, and I put this into words in PROPOSITION 15: 'anarchism strives for the complete abolition of the contrasts between individual and common interest'. That is, it strives to make the word 'interest' completely redundant. I use my brains to think up ends and how I can realize them. Of course it gives me a pleasant feeling when such realization succeeds. And I also get an enjoyable sensation when others around me get pleasant feelings with the realization of their ends, if they're good. When I take my individual brain as a starting point I directly link to that that other brains ought to be able to take up an equal place in the world. (Does anarchism become by that more than the most cheerful ism itself, the cheerfulness-ism?)
How about getting a pleasant feeling out of the realization of certain ends, which at the same time evoke unpleasant feelings in others? Do you have to subordinate yourself to the possible whims of those with whom you disagree? I say no. It really has to be sufficient to look and see if your ends could be those of everybody in the world at the same time. When the realization of your ends doesn't cause any objections then, nothing is wrong with your individual ends. (Exploitation, continually wanting to have more possessions of your own, asking interest, polluting the air, these are some of those things which can't possibly be done when everybody tries to put them into practice at the same time. According to me 'ecology' and 'ethics' are thus ingrained in the above.)
The correspondence of individual and common interest needn't lead to all equal people at all. Differences in taste can be present in abundance. But that doesn't imply that indulging tastes under the noses of others would be fine. With something like smoking it is quite clear: the realization of the peculiar aim of smokers can't at the same time co-exist with the realization of the fresh-air-aim of those who don't want chemicals to rule over their thinking and feeling. According to me, starting to smoke in the presence of others without asking can thus never be anarchist behavior. (In this respect there is by the way some improvement in 'the movement'.) Another example is playing the saxophone. I don't like the fact at all that house-building is such that you can't withdraw acoustically, that you saddle others unasked with your sounds. In an anarchist village I would like this to be very different.
So in conclusion I summarize two propositions on which, in my view, the striving for anarchism is based, and why I feel I want it so much.
PROPOSITION 16: 'anarchism wants individuals to be able to develop themselves completely, for people only to co-operate in voluntary ways, and that applies to all acts, that they can be done simultaneously and continuously'. It seems to me that this proposition contains quite enough social logic to yield anarchy. More words, let alone bombastic words, you don't need.
PROPOSITION 17: 'it can be seen in history that knowledge grows, that knowledge spreads and that people change their behavior on the basis of new knowledge; not always in a pleasant direction, but nevertheless quite often they do; some developments indicate that in the end anarchism will be found to be the most attractive'. That's a very bold one. And nevertheless I think it's true. In the past there was a struggle between Hilversum (a small village) and Naarden (a small city), or (the counties) Holland and Gelderland tried together to wipe Utrecht from the map (still to be seen by the present borders of the province of Utrecht). Now we find that rather unimaginable, and it is possible (but it needn't be) that people think further along these lines, until at last everywhere there's the kind of peace as there is between Hilversum and Naarden now, and that borders everywhere become as unnoticeable as those between Utrecht and Gelderland now. It's a matter of looking further than the end of your nose.
Something similar applies to pollution or to other problems. It is always a kind of short-sightedness which makes the whole lot not function too well. But short-sightedness decreases with the increasing of (certain) knowledge. Fifty years ago almost all men smoked, and without any force that has already improved quite a bit.
Knowledge can get through. So...? Time for anarchy!
Here all propositions and misunderstandings are being repeated, in case you want to copy them or want to do something else with them. Although these are of course not ALL the possible propositions and misunderstandings,
PROPOSITION 1: 'you can't talk about THE anarchism.'
PROPOSITION 2: 'anarchism asserts that it is possible that everyone determines what everybody does.'
PROPOSITION 3: 'the enumeration of the advantages of democracy always compares democracy to dictatorship.'
PROPOSITION 4: 'all advantages of democracy are of course the same advantages of anything better than dictatorship.'
PROPOSITION 5: 'evidently something called democracy can already be said to exist when a substantial part of life, like industry, isn't arranged democratically, thus when there are still all sorts of dictatorial features present.'
PROPOSITION 6: 'in democracies all decisions always have something mediocre about them.'
PROPOSITION 7: 'it is possible that people are anarchists for most of the time, but the moment they are throwing a bomb they aren't engaged with anarchism.'
PROPOSITION 8: 'anarchism has no ways to stem the tide of fascist scribblings and has no ways to stop an extreme pain in the neck.'
PROPOSITION 9: 'because anarchism doesn't give a solution for everything, it doesn't mean anarchism offers no solution to anything.'
PROPOSITION 10: 'where conflicting opinions are side by side, chaos can easily occur.'
PROPOSITION 11: 'where anarchism and chaos go hand in hand you can speak of a variant of apathy that characterizes many non-anarchist people.'
PROPOSITION 12: 'leaving opinions side by side has rather more to do with liberalism than with anarchism.'
PROPOSITION 13: 'sending criticism into the world is the only way anarchist people have to tackle excesses like fascism.'
PROPOSITION 14: 'moralism, if existing at all, can't be part of anarchist people.'
PROPOSITION 15: 'anarchism strives for the complete abolition of the contrasts between individual and common interest.'
PROPOSITION 16: 'anarchism wants individuals to be able to develop themselves completely, that people only co-operate in voluntary ways, and that applies to all acts, that they can be done simultaneously and continuously.'
PROPOSITION 17: 'it can be seen in history that knowledge grows, that knowledge spreads and that people change their behavior on the basis of new knowledge; not always in a pleasant direction, but nevertheless quite often they do; some developments indicate that in the end anarchism will be found to be the most attractive.'
Misunderstanding 1: 'anarchists are bomb-throwers.'
Misunderstanding 2: 'activism is anarchism.'
Misunderstanding 3: 'anarchy means chaos, anarchists are chaoticists.'
Misunderstanding 4: 'anarchism is an ethical ism, based on the idea that people are good in their hearts.'
Misunderstanding 5: 'anarchism as an ideal is very nice, but in practice it can't work.'
Misunderstanding 6: 'anarchism is by definition against the grain.'
Misunderstanding 7: 'the fact that anarchism is difficult, isn't something to become cheerful about.'
Misunderstanding 8: 'anarchist people never agree with each other.'
Misunderstanding 9: 'anarchist people can't co-operate.'
Atalanta, The Netherlands