by Evan Oscherwitz
Though only theorized by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in the 1800s, and not quite conventional in modern society, Anarchism has existed in practice for a substantial period, spread out across time and space, from Indigenous societies the world over, to more recent examples like Syndicalist Catalonia, Makhnovia, Shinmin, and Chiapas.
Anarchism has withstood the test of time, and experienced widespread and lengthy success when allowed to operate without interference. The only remaining question concerns whether or not Anarchism is compatible with today’s world. I am tempted to argue that not only is it possible, but that it is instrumental to our survival and advancement as a species.
Contrary to popular teaching and belief, Anarchism does not strictly advocate the abolition of concepts such as order, and government.
Rather, it seeks to eliminate hierarchy, with the goal of achieving ultimate freedom, and all that it entails. Anarchist societies can, and have historically employed militaries, and governments (albeit universal ones that employ direct democracy.)
Though many forms exist, AnarchoCommunism, AnarchoSyndicalism, and AnarchoCollectivism are the most common. Mutualism, which was Proudhon’s anarchism of choice, has fallen out of favor due to many people considering free trade as a threat to wealth equality.
There are those that would have us believe that hierarchy is a necessary prerequisite for
persistence and order. These individuals assert that only through hierarchy can progress and balance be achieved.
However, these individuals forget that in the days before Eurasian exploration, king Anarchy enjoyed absolute rule over the inhabitants of the outer continents. Tribal society is typically thought of as being dominated by a “chief,” but historians and anthropologists agree that this concept is a European invention.
Patrick Williams, a leading researcher on the Kalenjin and Maasai peoples of Africa, writes that “where social parallels did not readily or naturally exist, they had to be created, or even invented. One of these inventions was the tribal chief.”
Similar events transpired in the Pacific and Australasia, where even the oldest monarchies were only established in the 19th century. Another theme erroneously associated with anarchical tribal society is primitivity.
Contrary to popular belief, some Amer-indian societies, like the Aztécs, the Quechua, and the Maya, were very skilled astronomers, architects and city planners whose exploits superseded those of their European contemporaries.
The Aztéc city of Tenochtitlán was built on a lake, but still boasted a population in the tens of thousands. Similarly, Polynesian peoples like the Māori, Tahitians, Marquesans, and their descendants, the Hawai’ians, were all excellent navigators and warriors, who successfully fought off the Europeans for many years, while also discovering new territory regularly.
In fact, archaeological research, as well as the presence of crops like yams in Polynesia mean that the Polynesians may actually have gone to the Americas and traded with
the preColumbian natives, or vice versa.
Either way, these anarchical societies persisted for millennia. Having dismissed any “inherent” pitfalls or flaws in anarchist philosophy and procedure, one can now infer that the only tangible obstacles that obstruct the persistence of a modern anarchist society are militaries with capitalist and/or authoritarian leanings.
These were the downfall of Makhno’s Free Territory, Syndicalist Catalonia, and the Korean Anarchist Federation. These societies all fought bravely against massive powers (Red Army, Falange, Imperial Japan,) but ultimately came up short.
All that stood between them and success were opposing military powers, and modern anarchists, as such, have incorporated military suppression into revolutionary strategy.
Groups like the EZLN and PKK have accomplished this, successfully fighting off the likes of ISIL, the Mexican police, and the Juarez Cartel.
The same individuals who purport that anarchism is unsustainable also tend to argue that it cannot succeed in the modern world.
As previously mentioned, anarchical tribal society was not anything approximating primitive, for the time, but anarchism proves to be extremely versatile in that technological changes do little, if anything, to stop the proverbial bleeding.
As previously stated, anarchist territories like Makhnovia, Chiapas, Rojava, Catalonia, and the town of Marinaleda in Spain, have adapted quite seamlessly to modern innovation; in fact, Marinaleda outproduces the surrounding region by a factor of ten.
While the unusual socioeconomic landscape does unify the populace, it does not prevent them from enjoying luxuries or making use of modern technology, and the assertion that it does should be received with unequivocal disdain and ridicule.
At this point, one may say “Evan, this is all well and good, but how does it explain why
anarchism is needed?”
To realize why anarchism is needed, one needs only to be cognizant of the crises currently enveloping the planet.
The persecution of the Oromo people in Ethiopia, the ISIS crisis, the rise of Duarte in the Philippines, the rebirth of social reaction in Europe following an influx of refugees, and the relentless exploitation of Earth’s resources signify an all-time nadir for global affairs; and it has become abundantly clear that the current system cannot and will not do anything but exacerbate these problems.
It is not farfetched, in fact, to suggest that it may be designed to make things worse. Anarchism, however, respects and defends the rights to liberty and equality of every individual, it frowns on authoritarianism, corporate and private gluttony, and recognizes the scarcity of Earth’s resources.
Anarchism is not just a means to an end, it is THE means to an end. It is the key to the seemingly indecipherable code of absolute freedom.