I suggest reading it in whole, but the last part is what did it for me
Me: My advice would simply be to be upfront about the fact that left anarchists and capitalists can’t get along. That’s what most left anarchists do.
ACap: Well I give the benefit of the doubt to statists
Me: Well great. The trouble with giving the benefit of the doubt to people, and trusting that they fit into an narrow and unprecedented category of anarchism you’ve invented, is that you’ll end up looking like an idiot.
ACap: Except that it’s the official definition.
Me: Boo hoo. Left anarchists ruined your “official definition”.
ACap: They didn’t ruin anything, they are quite irrelevant really
Me: I can’t believe an anarcho-capitalist just said that.
I just read this article about human psychology and the counter-intuitive way our brain functions in regards to the things we like or hate. The more I read into it, the more it seemed to validate on the most common practice of Anarchism: Direct Action. Or more specifically the core concept of anarchist theory that the only actual systematic change can come from each of us by actively doing things ourselves.
Very often I’ll speak with people of differing ideologies who support this or that political party and during the conversation I often say something like: “This all sounds nice and well in theory, but how do you plan to get your party into power, or otherwise put your theory into practice”? The disappointing answer inevitably is something along the lines of “proper education” or “more convincing others” (from the optimists at least). Subsequent questions on where this education should come from tend to be unsatisfying.
On the other hand, pessimists or people rejecting anarchist theory, tend to say that no signicant change can come because people are too stupid/ignorant/lazy to take care of their societies and as such, not only is Anarchism painted as a utopian ideal, but even their own theories are deemed as impossible to actualize (Or patently ridiculous plans are suggested)
But anarchism, tends to suggest something different; that change can only come by putting practice first. It is by having people actually put the future society we’d like to have, into practice, that we actually demolish the current one. Surprisingly, original Anarchist theorists seemed to have understood exactly how we need to act, given what we’ve recently discovered about human psychology: The way we act forms the person that we are.
This is the reason why anarchists support forms of self-organization such as unions, co-operatives, mutual banks, communes etc. A workplace union is not just a place for syndicalists to join, it’s an actual conversion tool! A worker who joins a union starts getting converted to a mutual aid personality. It does not wholly1 matter if they were lazy or ignorant before, because taking part in such an org will actually change how they act.
Same is true for neighborhood unions or any other form of direct action mutual aid. By actively having people practice mutual aid, you make them the kind of people who want to do so.
This is why always the most important question about a political theory is: “But how are you going to achiveve it?”, because if it’s just based on “convincing people first” it’s just doomed to fail. Nobody will be convinced if what they’re currently doing in their daily lives is the completely opposite of what you’re suggesting, regardless of how good what suggest is in theory.
I suspect there are limits to how much personalities can change given a starting point [↩]
I want to think of anarchism as a description for what is wrong and what needs to be plucked out, but once I think of its implementation I can’t help but to think it doesn’t fit humans as a whole. We need to rise intellectually before it can be applied. Right?
So here’s a chance to address this quickly
Is the reason why anarchism is still not the norm because humans aren’t yet ready for it?
No. Anarchism is the most compatible with what anthropology and psychology tells us about humans social relations. The problem is that the environment you live in (i.e. society) shapes what things you accept and humans have been either too conditioned by hundreds of years of coercion and violence to accept capitalist values, such as wage slavery, or actively prevented from seeking the alternative even now.
Most humans would gladly shake off capitalist concepts of work and wage and exploitation given half the chance, but those who have the most benefit in doing so (the poor in other countries) are actively repressed by violence funded by their exploiters (the rich and middle class of rich countries). In turn, the middle class and the poor of the richer counties are palliated by the crumbs from the theft which occurs wholescale in the rest of the world, so that they don’t rise up. And when the palliatives fail, actual violence is again employed.
The title quote from a right-libertarian redditor named “Libertarian Atheist” who fancies themselves as some kind of anarchist. They got a bit upset that I declined to include /r/agorism in the confederation of anarchist reddits and apparently tried to educate me on their personal ideology. The discussion soon after degraded, until they said this particular sentence, and I just had to bow out. What more can you say to that, that is not said by itself.
For posterity, I’m going to quote in full their latest reply. It’s that amazing.
You mistake arrogance with intelligence, knowledge, and an ability to convey ideas in an effective manner. “Arrogance” is a term dumb people with false ideas and impressions use to describe other people with better ideas. A smart man with false ideas and impressions who comes across another person with better ideas will not call that person “arrogant,” he will try to better understand what the other man is saying and be on the ready to throw out his own follies. What you laughably call a “combin[ing]” of “ideologies” is not so, it is the end result of years of study and reading, throwing out weak ideas (like “gift economy”) and championing the strongest. This is what I have been doing all my life and it does not bother me in the least that you (or anyone else, anarchist or otherwise) can’t understand. Luckily opinions are not measured by how many people “take [it] seriously” (if that were the case Christian and Muslim opinions would be the best) and a man seeking the best opinions does not care who “takes [him] seriously”, what matters is reaching as close an approximation of the truth as is humanly possible.
The funniest part is where you claim to be able to teach me anything. I’ve got more knowledge in my left testicle than you’ve got in your whole brain. You’re barely fit to teach a dog. You deign to reply to me? What a laugh! This back in forth with you is the greatest waste of my time this year so far. . . we’ve got quite a bit to go but you’re in a very high running at this point.
I just love that they also italicized the “me”, making that phrase totally sound like Invader Zim. Adorable!
It’s generally sad when I get disappointed by fellow anarchists online, but I don’t make a big deal out of it always However, sometimes, I feel a need to point out where I see a failing – when there is a salient point to be made on an issue. Such is the case with the recent interaction I had in /r/anarchism.
The story so far
/r/anarchism has until now been fairly laissez-faire in moderation, something which changed somewhat after the The Great /r/anarchism Shitstorm of 2010 when it was accepted that oppressive speech and people would be removed from the premises. However, it was commonly accepted that all other aspects of moderation, save combating outright spam, would be left to the organic moderation of the community.
One month ago, one of the newer mods in the team, wanted to start manually removing so-called reposts, by which they meant the same story published on different webpages and posted to /r/anarchism within a short amount of time from other versions of it. They asked the community for comments and the general sentiments was that they should remains hands-off about it and that was that.
Yesterday, as I was reading a post about some anarchistic rants from Eric Raymond, I noticed this mod had left a single comment saying “No platform”. I decided to check if that meant what I thought it did, and sure enough, that post had been moved by said mod to the spam filter. Alarmed, I checked the recent additions to the spam filter and found it half-full with reposts (as well as similar “No platform” removals1 ) that this mod had started doing, pretty much since the community asked them to remain hands-off.
I kinda exploded about it on /r/metanarchism, not so much about reposts being removed, but about the mod acting unilaterally and despite the decision reached in the past. My tone led this mod to try and troll me, and in the process revealed just what an authoritarian sentiment they hold, and how little they regard the people in the community they moderate.
More specifically, when challenged on the fact that they are not only removing the agency of the community and disregarding democratic decision-making, they replied with two very telling phrases.
Sit down and shut up.
This is significant because it sets the tone of the discussion. The mod is taking the clear role of the authority figure which reinforces the fact that lately, whatever this mod has wanted has been done despite all opposition.2 So I needed to be told my place obviously, a trend which continued throughout the thread by the mod in question continuously mocking my concerns.
It became apparent to me after having to beg to edit the sidebar that people around here tend to oppose things or sit on their ass if you ask, but go along with them if you just do them.
This must be the most cynical justification of authoritarianism I’ve seen. And from a self-professed anarchist no less! This is practically saying that the mod consider their comrades weak-willed and apathetic, so they’ll give lip service to democratic processes but will go through with their plan anyway since nobody is going to stop them anyway. I noted the quote in the thread, which only elicited more mockery from the mod in question, while everyone else just twiddled their thumbs.
It is no wonder that this mod has started acting as if /r/anarchism is their personal fief.
So since then, I’ve been trying to explain to people, that it doesn’t matter how small or trivial the act of authoritarianism was. The problem is that it was a unilateral act that went against what people expressed they wanted. People kept trying to argue with me that “deleting reposts is no big deal, and why should we not do it anyway?” which is frustratingly beside the point.
It doesn’t matter if removing reposts is not a significant act. It matters that this mod cynically rams through their own preferences and anarchists just let him do it. Of course the same people then argued that since people don’t bother to show up and argue the point, then obviously removing reposts is “not a big deal” and round and round we go.
To perhaps make it more understandable why allowing some people to act this way is problematic, I wanted to tell a little story which might make an apt analogy and the point I’m making more obvious:
A story of leftovers
Imagine if you will, a large community with communal kitchens and dining areas. After each meal, the leftovers are left in a pile in the kitchen and there are also a few people in the community who use them for various purposes. Some make compost out of vegetable leftovers, while others make soups out of meat leftovers such as bones.
Now imagine also that there are a few others who really dislike seeing those leftovers hanging there for hours until the ones who wish to use them come around to collect them. After a while, they make a meeting to discuss the situation. They would like to throw them away immediately with the normal garbage. The meeting is not very large because most people don’t care about leftovers, but some who collect them and some who want to throw them away show up, as well as some who don’t feel strongly about it either way. Various arguments are made for and against, with the ones who want to throw them away mentioning that they are unseemly, smelly or unhygienic while the ones who collect them make the case that those effect are very minor and easily avoidable while there are others benefits. After some back and forth on this issue, within this small meeting, the general sentiment is that most people don’t mind the leftovers staying around until they are collected and everyone leaves it at that.
People in the community go on with their lives and nobody really thinks about the issue anymore. However one of people who was the most vocal about getting rid of the leftovers, starts going around throwing away the leftovers when they notice them anyway. They don’t throw all of them away, and they always leave a small cryptic post-it note somewhere in the kitchen area that is fairly easy to miss. The people who gather them don’t really notice it other than simply finding less leftovers around.
Eventually one finds the post-it note and starts to investigate. They go through the normal garbage and notice a large quantity of leftovers in them. Enraged, they call another meeting about it and call-out the one throwing the leftovers away: “Why did you start doing this, when we agreed to let us handle it?”. Various people from the old and new meeting arrived to see what all the fuss was about.
The answer comes back: “But leftovers are unseemly and smelly.” Some people in attendance murmur in agreement, some of the ones collecting the leftovers start explaining again why they want them, and the discussion on if the leftovers should be stored or thrown away starts again. Only this time, the framing is different. This time the ones collecting them need to provide a reason to convince people to let them do it, and they need to find enough support to peer-pressure the one doing it unilaterally to stop. They will also need to get into confrontation about it which is not worth it for something so minor. “Why are you making a big deal out of this? They’re only leftovers!” Those who didn’t want leftovers lying around don’t speak up because they got what they preferred now. And unfortunately, not many care about leftovers anyway, so most remain on the fence or don’t provide any input at all.
The real problem was ignored.
The issue here was not on whether leftovers should be collected. The issue was about one person who put their personal preferences above everyone else. The fact that most were apathetic enough about it to let them is part of the problem, not the justification! At the end of this hypothetical story, the people who were doing something harmless were alienated from their own community. Their wishes, their decision-making, their agency were diminished. In the future they will not even go to such meetings. “Why bother”?
The one who disregarded them and did their own thing anyway? Now they think their comrades are weak-willed and pushovers. And next time they try to ram their preferences though, they’ll find even less opposition as more and more people are alienated. If anyone raises concerns about previous such incidents, they’ll silence them through mockery. “Yeah, fear my hygienic authority. Imma coming for your garbage!”. Those who get their way while in the minority will go with it, because, “why not?”, while those who are against it, even when they know there’s more of them, will be the silent (perr-pressured if necessary) majority, going through with it just to avoid confrontation and belittlement.
Authoritarianism starts to creep in. Some people learn that they can manipulate their more confrontation-averse, apathetic, or facilitating comrades to their own ends and realize that disregarding the wishes of others works better. The ones whose wishes are disregarded will defer more and more from decision-making and may even internalize this behaviour. Soon enough you have an authority-leader figure and followers. And unless the authority figure does something egregious, they will only increase their unofficial influence.
I fully expect to be further mocked for this piece. “All this though about doing something as beneficial as removing spam?”, some will disingenuously asset, once again missing the point I’m making:
Authoritarianism and hierarchy does not always assert itself in one fell-violent-swoop. These sentiments creep into even the best-intentioned communities and rot them from within. Until a point comes where people either finally wake up and a splinter occurs, with the previous authority figures retaining control of the space along with those who’ve internalized the unsaid hierarchy most, while the rest go and found a new community and vow never to succumb to the same traps…until new people join and everyone grows lax once more.
It’s easy to declare vigilance against the obvious authoritarians and entryists who are painfully obvious to everyone. It’s much more difficult to be vigilant to all the small erosions coming from trusted friends, who are getting just a bit too comfortable in being seen at the leader. The stories of anarchist communities being subverted this way and eventually imploding or dissolving are numerous. Some times there’s a happy end with the petulant authority figure being expelled (and sometimes even being found out to have been an agent provocateur), but even then, the wounds done to the community are deep. Sometimes fatal.
The reason I’m starting to call out people on these apparent trivial things is not because I’m a slave to process or “stickler to procedure” as the mod in question described me. The reason I’m doing this is because I am concerned of authoritarian tendencies. No matter how small and no matter if I personally agree with the end result. The price, the rot within, is never worth it.
Authoritarians don’t like being called on their shit, and self-professed anarchist authoritarians even less and will always attempt to divert the discussion to discussing the merits of their perspective, rather than the problems of their tactics. People avert to conflict, or convenienced by the apparent end result, or just looking for lulz will indulge them and join on the assault, ridicule and marginalization of those of us raising attention to the small violations of anarchistic principles. I’ve seen it time and again, coming from all people in positions of authority. Ridicule comes first. If this doesn’t work, then they fight you, clean or dirty. Already some people in /r/anarchism are trying to paint me as a concern troll for raising issues like this, regardless of the fact that I’ve been here active in this community longer than they have. Read the thread above to see just how absurd the accusation basis becomes later on.
But putting the idea out there that I’m concern trolling and repeating it is a rather ingenious tactic. Repeat the lie often enough and then the idea will stick…somewhere. Soon enough, calling me a concern troll will not immediately sound so absurd. “Haven’t they been called a concern troll multiple times in the last few months?” the subconscious will remark.
Oh, and did I mention that it just so happens that lately they’ve started banning concern trolls in /r/anarchism?
And to pre-empt some people, no, I am not a martyr, nor I consider myself one. I am not looking to get myself banned to make a point, nor am I trying to bring down /r/anarchism. What I am is disappointed that a community that is theoretically made of a larger concentration of anarchists than most, not only lets the small violations pass, but they mostly don’t care for a democratic decision-making process. I am dismayed that when a mod cynically refers to their comrades as weak-willed sheep to be led around and shamelessly admit that they do so, nobody bats an eyelid. I am alarmed that there is so little vigilance…
Am I giving too much thought to the going-ons of a small online community on the net, compared to the grand scheme of things? Perhaps. But I find that the “grand things” tend to mask the small ones until it’s too late.
To put it another way: When you’re battling pigs on the street daily, it’s difficult when you come home to notice or be upset about some guys throwing away your leftovers…
The same moderator has also expressed explicit desires to remove “anarcho”-capitalists from the discussion, something which was historically tolerated in /r/anarchism for the purposes of open discussion. [↩]
For example, someone requested that I be added as a mod again, this had significant support, but this particular mod blocked it on the ground that I would prevent mods from acting too much. Obviously they meant that I would stop them from doing what they just did, which I would. The request then moved to modified consensus, which was supported by 10 people and blocked by this one mod. The last request to make the mods follow the rules of their own community, also fell flat [↩]
You speak of dignity, that everyone should be treated with dignity. I agree with you. But you can’t treat someone with dignity, or expect to be treated with dignity in return, while one person is up high and the other person is down low, while your boot is on their neck.
It is unfortunate but expected that the Anarchist Mandy Hiscocks has been sentenced to prison time for their acts in the G20 protests. In their closing statement, they provided a scathing critique of the “justice” system and its support for systematic oppression. I can’t recomment reading it enough.
This has been a common trait of almost all the ones who have expressed their intense dislike towards me1 since the Great /r/Anarchism ShitStorm of 2010, while I was acting as a mod, and even now where I’m not.
I find it very disconcerning that many self-professed anarchists will support some of the most authoritarian decision-making styles, if it will “get things done”, without ever thinking of the costs. As if a movement which based itself on hierarchical and authoritarian “get things done” mentality would somehow transform into a democratic and mutual aid society after those things had been done.
for not being “anarchist enough”. I was also hated by many on the other side of the coin for supposedly facilitating authoritarians [↩]
I posted yesterday’s Bingo chart I created to reddit and it was very warmly received. A lot of people since then have asked me to write refutations of each square in chart, so that people can easily be linked to them when they do make them. While a lot of the squares are worded in such a sarcastic way so as to contain their own refutation, I think the idea has some merit.
I plan to write a few posts refuting the more compelling parts of the Bingo. They will most likely be short & sweet, and rather than expand mercilessly upon them, I’ll link to more detailed arguments elsewhere. Stay tuned.
There’s a few humorous BINGO sheets available on the internet, from the hilarious Libertarian Troll Bingo, to the sarcastic Sexism in Games BINGO. The latter one, I recently modified slightly and then run through the comments of reddit, which were discussing sexism in games, with great success. I had quite a lot of fun doing it and it also occurred to me that there is another topic where there are so many cliché criticisms that might benefit from a similar treatment.
To this end, I’ve created the “Anarchism Can’t Work lolol” Bingo, which is a humorous view into some of the most common, and usually outright absurd criticisms of anarchism that are frequently trotted out when such discussions occur. You can find it below in a simple html form, or on the side, in an image format (click on the thumbnail for larger version).
Anarchist Catalonia and Ukraine were defeated in war, so this proves Anarchism can’t work. Democratic France being defeated in WW2 doesn’t count.
Grow up and get a job!
What have the Anarchists ever achieved? The “Haymarket affair”? Never heard of it.
Who would maintain the roads and gather the garbage?
Why don’t you create your own political party and run for office?
People are too stupid and evil to voluntary work together. They need benevolent leaders to do it for them. What do you mean “who would choose the leaders”?
Who would control the huge corporations if the state didn’t exist? Today they’re perfectly regulated and kept in check by our incorruptible leaders.
You’re a Utopian. Anarchy will never work the way you idealize, unlike Capitalism and the State which work perfectly now.
The corrupt politicians in power will never allow any movement that starts to challenge the state. Ron Paul 2012!
You’re not a true anarchist unless you support the rights to private property, capitalism and wage slavery.
Human Nature (FREE SPACE)
Your ethical arguments on how humans should act in an anarchist society makes you as bad as Stalin and Pol Pot.
If you oppose Capitalism so much, then why are you still using a computer and the internet, huh? And why do you buy groceries?
Let’s say tomorrow we magically had an Anarchist society…
An anarchist society doesn’t exist right now, therefore it could never work. Why no, I do not know how old Capitalism is.
The state is required because humans don’t exercise voluntary organization. Much like shoes are required because our feet lack the callouses one would develop by not wearing shoes.
Whenever your revolutions were attempted, they ended up in brutal dictatorships after a bloody civil war. Unlike all democratic revolutions which were peaceful and never failed.
I demand to know the exact details of an anarchist society of the future. People could easily predict 20th century Capitalism during the 19th.
Humans need hierarchy. All human societies throughout history were hierarchical.
Why don’t anarchist start their own communes right now? Just buy the land from the state or capitalists and prove it works. Of course nobody will try to mess with it.
Without a state and laws to tell me how to behave, I’d go on a killing spree immediately.
Libertarian Socialism is an oxymoron.
I agree with you, but nothing can ever change, so why bother…
I don’t believe I need to point out that this Bingo chart is dripping with sarcasm 🙂
One thing you might like to note is that I’ve tried to align the chart in such a way so that the middle horizontal axis contains common arguments coming from right-libertarians and “Anarcho”-Capitalists, while the middle vertical axis contains arguments that approach a Marxist-Leninist/State Socialist criticism. This should allow an easy Bingo in case you’re arguing wish such ideologues. 🙂
Finally, in case you want to spread it around, or rework it, below I’m including two text files, one containing the bingo options in simple text format, while the other one containing the bingo chart in a way that you can paste into reddit comments.
But the easiest way to understand how original appropriation cannot be justified within a conservative/libertarian framework is by focusing on the idea of opportunity costs. When an individual declares perpetual ownership of some piece of unowned land, every other human being on earth suffers an opportunity cost: their opportunity to use that land has now disappeared. Opportunity costs are real economic harms.
To be concrete about this, consider an example. The piece of land down by the river is owned by no one; so everyone can use it. Sarah declares — on whatever property theory she prefers — that the piece of land by the river now belongs to her exclusively. But, wait a minute. The previous ability of others to use the land by the river has now vanished! They have been hit with opportunity costs. If one of the dispossessed were to say “this is silly, I do not consent to giving up my pre-existing opportunity to use the land down by the river,” Sarah uses violence (typically state violence) to keep the dispossessed out.
Unless unanimous consent exists, the original grabbing up of property results in violent, non-consensual theft from others. It is really just that simple. What follows from that conclusion is that the conservative/libertarian positions that depend on the sanctity of property rights are totally bogus. For instance, you cannot complain that taxes violently take material resources from you without your consent when property itself is predicated on just that. You cannot claim your enormous wealth was gotten fairly when the ownership of that wealth is predicated upon the non-consensual violence just discussed.
This basically skewers the “homesteading principle” which is at the core of most, if not all, right-libertarian property rights. The only thing (I am aware of) that tried to tackle this, is the Lockean proviso, which has its own, very significant failings in regard to the loss of freedom from such enclosed lands.