About

I.5 What could the social structure of anarchy look like?

The social and political structure of anarchy is parallel to that of the economic structure, i.e., it is based on a voluntary federation of decentralized, directly democratic policy-making bodies, the neighborhood and community assemblies. In these grassroots political units, the concept of "self-management" becomes that of municipal self-government, a form of civic organization in which people take back control of their living places from the bureaucratic state and the capitalist class whose interests it serves. As Kropotkin argued, "socialism must become more popular, more communalistic, and less dependent upon indirect government through elected representatives. It must become more self-governing." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 185]

This empowerment of ordinary citizens through decentralization and direct democracy will eliminate the alienation and apathy that are now rampant in the modern city, and (as always happens when people are free) unleash a flood of innovation in dealing with the social breakdown now afflicting our urban wastelands. The gigantic metropolis with its hierarchical and impersonal administration, its atomised and isolated "residents," will be transformed into a network of humanly scaled participatory communities (sometimes called "communes"), each with its own unique character and forms of self-government, which will be cooperatively linked through federation with other communities at several levels, from the municipal through the bioregional to the global.

Of course, it can (and has) been argued that people are just not interested in "politics." Further, some claim that this disinterest is why governments exist -- people delegate their responsibilities and power to others because they have better things to do. Anarchists, however, do not draw this conclusion from the current apathy that surrounds us. In fact, we argue that this apathy is not the cause of government but its result. Government is an inherently hierarchical system in which ordinary people are deliberately marginalised. The powerlessness people feel due to the workings of the system ensure that they are apathetic about it, thus guaranteeing that wealthy and powerful elites govern society without hindrance from the majority.

This result is not an accident, and the marginalisation or ordinary people is actually celebrated in "democratic" theory. As Noam Chomsky notes, "Twentieth century democratic theorists advise that 'The public must be put in its place,' so that the 'responsible men' may 'live free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd,' 'ignorant and meddlesome outsiders' whose 'function' is to be 'interested spectators of action,' not participants, lending their weight periodically to one or another of the leadership class (elections), then returning to their private concerns. (Walter Lippman). The great mass of the population, 'ignorant and mentally deficient,' must be kept in their place for the common good, fed with 'necessary illusion' and 'emotionally potent oversimplifications' (Wilson's Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Reinhold Niebuhr). Their 'conservative' counterparts are only more extreme in their adulation of the Wise Men who are the rightful rulers -- in the service of the rich and powerful, a minor footnote regularly forgotten" [Year 501, p. 18]

As discussed in Section B.2.6 (Who benefits from centralisation?) this marginalisation of the public from political life ensures that the wealthy can be "left alone" to use their power as they see fit. In other words, such marginalisation is a necessary part of a fully functioning capitalist society (as predicted by Thomas Jefferson, among others, when he said that "The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when the government falls into the hands of banking institutions and monied incorporations"). Hence, under capitalism, libertarian social structures are to be discouraged. Or as Chomsky puts it, the "rabble must be instructed in the values of subordination and a narrow quest for personal gain within the parameters set by the institutions of the masters; meaningful democracy, with popular association and action, is a threat to be overcome." [Op. Cit., p. 18] This philosophy can be seen in the statement of a US Banker in Venezuela under the murderous Jimenez dictatorship: "You have the freedom here to do whatever you want to do with your money, and to me, that is worth all the political freedom in the world." [quoted by Chomsky, Op. Cit., p. 99]

Deterring libertarian alternatives to statism is a common feature of our current system. By marginalising and disempowering people, the ability of individuals to manage their own social activities is undermined and weakened. They develop a "fear of freedom" and embrace authoritarian institutions and "strong leaders," which in turn reinforces their marginalisation.

This consequence is hardly surprising. Anarchists maintain that the desire to participate and the ability to participate are in a symbiotic relationship: participation feeds on itself. By creating the social structures that allow participation, participation will increase. As people increasingly take control of their lives, so their ability to do so also increases. The challenge of having to take responsibility for decisions that make a difference is at the same time an opportunity for personal development. To begin to feel power, having previously felt powerless, to win access to the resources required for effective participation and learn how to use them, is a liberating experience. Once people become active subjects, making things happen in one aspect of their lives, they are less likely to remain passive objects, allowing things to happen to them, in other aspects.

Hence a meaningful communal life based on self-empowered individuals is a distinct possibility. It is the hierarchical structures in statism and capitalism, marginalising and disempowering the majority, which is at the root of the current social apathy in the face of increasing social and ecological disruption. Libertarian socialists therefore call for a radically new form of political system to replace the centralized nation-state, a form that would be based around confederations of self-governing communities. In other words "Society is a society of societies; a league of leagues of leagues; a commonwealth of commonwealths of commonwealths; a republic of republics of republics. Only there is freedom and order, only there is spirit, a spirit which is self-sufficiency and community, unity and independence." [Gustav Landauer, For Socialism, pp. 125-126]

To create such a system would require dismantling the nation-state and reconstituting relations between communities on the basis of self-determination and free and equal confederation from below. In this following subsections we will examine in more detail why this new system is needed and what it might look like. We will point out here that we are discussing the social structure of areas within which the inhabitants are predominately anarchists. It is obviously the case that areas in which the inhabitants are not anarchists will take on different forms depending upon the ideas that dominate there. Hence, assuming the end of the current state structure, we could see anarchist communities along with statist ones (capitalist or socialist) and these communities taking different forms depending on what their inhabitants want - communist to individualist communities in the case of anarchist ones, republician to private state organisations in the statist areas,, ones based on religious sects and so on. As it is up to non-anarchists to present their arguments in favour of their kind of statism, we will concentrate on discussing anarchist ideas on social organisation here.

I.5.1 What are participatory communities and why are they needed?

As Murray Bookchin argues in The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship, the modern city is a virtual appendage of the capitalist workplace, being an outgrowth and essential counterpart of the factory (where "factory" means any enterprise in which surplus value is extracted from employees.) As such, cities are structured and administered primarily to serve the needs of the capitalist elite -- employers -- rather than the needs of the many -- their employees. From this standpoint, the city must be seen as (1) a transportation hub for importing raw materials and exporting finished products; and (2) a huge dormitory for wage slaves, conveniently locating them near the enterprises where their labor is to exploited, providing them with entertainment, clothing, medical facilities, etc. as well as coercive mechanisms for controlling their behavior.

The attitude behind the management of these "civic" functions by the bureaucratic servants of the capitalist ruling class is purely instrumental: worker-citizens are to be treated merely as means to corporate ends, not as ends in themselves. This attitude is reflected in the overwhelmingly alienating features of the modern city: its inhuman scale; the chilling impersonality of its institutions and functionaries; its sacrifice of health, comfort, pleasure, and aesthetic considerations to bottom-line requirements of efficiency and "cost effectiveness"; the lack of any real communal interaction among residents other than collective consumption of commodities and amusements; their consequent social isolation and tendency to escape into television, alcohol, drugs, gangs, etc. Such features make the modern metropolis the very antithesis of the genuine community for which most of its residents hunger. This contradiction at the heart of the system contains the possibility of radical social and political change.

The key to that change, from the anarchist standpoint, is the creation of a network of participatory communities based on self-government through direct, face-to-face democracy in grassroots neighbourhood and community assemblies. These assemblies will be general meetings open to all citizens in every neighbourhood, town, and village, and will be the source of and final authority over public policy for all levels of confederal coordination. Such "town meetings" will bring ordinary people directly into the political process and give them an equal voice in the decisions that affect their lives - "a people governing itself directly - when possible - without intermediaries, without masters." [Peter Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution Vol 1, p. 210] Traditionally, these "town meetings" or participatory communities were called communes in anarchist theory.

As Kropotkin pointed out, a "new form of political organisation has to be worked out the moment that socialistic principles shall enter our life. And it is self-evident that this new form will have to be more popular, more decentralised, and nearer to the folk-mote self-government than representative government can ever be." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 184] He, like all anarchists, considered the idea that socialism could be created by taking over the current state or creating a new one as doomed to failure. Instead, he recognised that socialism would only be built using new organisations that reflect the spirit of socialism (such as freedom, self-government and so on). Kropotkin, like Proudhon and Bakunin before him, therefore argued that "[t]his was the form that the social revolution must take -- the independent commune. . .[whose] inhabitants have decided that they will communalize the consumption of commodities, their exchange and their production" [Op. Cit., p. 163]

The size of the neighbourhood assemblies will vary, but it will probably fluctuate around some ideal size, discoverable in practice, that will provide a viable scale of face-to-face interaction and allow for both a variety of personal contacts and the opportunity to know and form a personal estimation of everyone in the neighborhood. Some anarchists have suggested that the ideal size for a neighbourhood assembly might be around 300 to 600 adults, meeting in neighborhoods of 500 to 1,000 people. (See, for example, "Green Political and Social Change" by the Syracuse/Onandaga County Greens, in Our Generation magazine, vol. 24, No 2. ). Such assemblies would meet regularly, perhaps monthly, and deal with a variety of issues. "Neighborhoods of this size can support their assemblies to oversee the administration of elementary schools, child care centers, retail outlets for basic home supplies, solar based energy sources, community gardens, community handicraft and machine tool workshops, community laundries, and much more, all within close walking distance" [Ibid].

Community assemblies and councils would be larger political units covering groups of neighborhoods involving perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 people. Like the neighborhood assemblies, they would be based on direct, "town-meeting"-style democracy. Most economies of scale are reached at this size:

"For example, assuming today's technology, division of labor, and level of workforce participation, a community of 10,000 with 2,000 manufacturing workers would be able to staff three plants of current average size in each of the thirteen basic manufacturing categories -- enough to supply the community with most of its manufacturing needs with considerable variety. Add multi-purpose machines, miniaturization, and cybernation, and the possibilities for a high degree of economic self-reliance become obvious. At this scale, the community still remains comprehensible, community control of the economy feasible, and such measures as distribution according to need and the regular rotation of people through a full range of types of work and public administrative responsibilities can be easily introduced. Communities of 5,000 to 10,000 would combine community assemblies, meeting perhaps quarterly to decide on basic policy, with community councils consisting of mandated, recallable, and rotating delegates from the neighborhood assemblies to oversee day to day coordination and administration of community policies" [Ibid]

I.5.2 Why are confederations of participatory communities needed?

Since not all issues are local, the neighbourhood and community assemblies will also elect mandated and recallable delegates to the larger-scale units of self-government in order to address issues affecting larger areas, such as urban districts, the municipality as a whole, the county, the bioregion, and ultimately the entire planet. Thus the assemblies will confederate at several levels in order to develop and coordinate common policies to deal with common problems.

This need for cooperation does not imply a centralised body. As Kropotkin pointed out, anarchists "understand that if no central government was needed to rule the independent communes, if national government is thrown overboard and national unity is obtained by free federation, then a central municipal government becomes equally useless and noxious. The same federative principle would do within the commune." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, pp. 163-164]

As in the economic federation of syndicates, the lower levels will control the higher, thus eliminating the current pre-emptive powers of centralised government hierarchies. Delegates to higher-level coordinating councils or conferences will be instructed, at every level of confederation, by the assemblies they represent, on how to deal with any issue. These instructions will be binding, committing delegates to a framework of policies within which they must act and providing for their recall and the nullification of their decisions if they fail to carry out their mandates. Delegates may be selected by election and/or sortition (random selection by lot, as for jury duty).

Most anarchists recognize that there will be a need for "public officials" with delegated "powers" within the social confederation. However, "powers" is not the best word to describe their activities, because their work is essentially administrative in nature -- for example, an individual may be elected to look into alternative power supplies for a community and report back on what he or she discovers. Or one may be elected to overlook the installation of a selected power supply. Because such a person is an elected delegate of the community, he or she is a "public official" in the broadest sense of the word, essentially an agent of the local community who is controlled by, and accountable to, that community.

Therefore, such "officials" are unlike politicians. This is for two reasons. Firstly, they cannot make policy decisions on behalf of those who elected them, and so they do not have governmental power over those who elected them. Taking the example of alternative power supplies, the elected "official" would present findings to the body by which he or she had been mandated. These findings are not a law which the electors are required to follow, but a series of suggestions and information from which they chose what they think is best. By this method the "officials" remain the servants of the public and are not given power to make decisions for people. In addition, these "officials" will be rotated frequently to prevent a professionalization of politics and the problem of politicians being largely on their own once elected.

Therefore, such "public officials" would be under the strict control of the organisations that elected them to administration posts. But, as Kropotkin argued, the general assembly of the community "in permanence - the forum always open - is the only way . . .to assure an honest and intelligent administration . . . [and is based upon] distrust of all executive powers." [The Great French Revolution Vol.1, p. 211]

As Murray Bookchin argues, a "confederalist view involves a clear distinction between policy making and the coordination and execution of adopted policies. Policy making is exclusively the right of popular community assemblies based on the practices of participatory democracy. Administration and coordination are the responsibility of confederal councils, which become the means for interlinking villages, towns, neighbourhoods, and cities into confederal networks. Power flows from the bottom up instead of from the top down, and in confederations, the flow of power from the bottom up diminishes with the scope of the federal council ranging territorially from localities to regions and from regions to ever-broader territorial areas." ["The Meaning of Confederation", p. 48, Society and Nature No.3, pp. 41-54]

Thus the people will have the final word on policy, which is the essence of self-government, and each citizen will have his or her turn to participate in the coordination of public affairs. In other words, the "legislative branch" of self-government will be the people themselves organized in their community assemblies and their confederal coordinating councils, with the "executive branch" (public officials) limited to implementing policy formulated by the legislative branch, that is, by the people.

Besides rotation of public officials, means to ensure the accountability of such officials to the people will include a wider use of elections and sortitions, open access to proceedings and records of "executive" activities by computer or direct inspection, the right of citizen assemblies to mandate delegates to higher-level confederal meetings, recall their officials, and revoke their decisions, and the creation of accountability boards, elected or selected by lot (as for jury duty), for each important administrative branch, from local to national.

I.5.3 What will be the scales and levels of confederation?

Virtually all the services and productive enterprises necessary to meet the needs of the population are present in today's small cities of 50,000 to 100,000. Beyond this size, diseconomies of scale begin to appear due to the complexities of coordinating urban services across wide areas and large populations. Therefore a libertarian-socialist society would probably form another level of confederation at the 50,000 to 100,000 range. Such units of confederation would include urban districts within today's large cities, small cities, and rural districts composed of several nearby towns. At this size, economies of scale can be achieved for nearly all the remaining social needs such as universities, hospitals, and cultural institutions.

However, face-to-face meetings of the whole population are impractical at this size. Therefore, the legislative body at this level would be the confederal council, which would consist of mandated, recallable, and rotating delegates from the neighborhood assemblies. These delegates would formulate policies to be discussed and voted on by the neighborhood assemblies, with the votes being summed across the district to determine district policy by majority rule.

To quote the Syracuse/Onandaga County Greens again, "Since almost all of the economies of scale and public decisions necessary for social self-management can be achieved by the time we reach the 50,000 to 100,000 scale, larger levels of confederation can be oriented mainly around bioregional and cultural affinities and the few remaining but important economic resources that must be shared at these scales." ["Green Political and Social Change", Ibid]

Ties between bioregions or larger territories based on the distribution of such things as geographically concentrated mineral deposits, climate dependent crops, and production facilities that are most efficient when concentrated in one area will unite communities confederally on the basis of common material needs as well as values. At the bioregional and higher levels of confederation, councils of mandated, recallable, and rotating delegates will coordinate policies at those levels, but such policies will still be subject to approval by the neighborhood and community assemblies through their right to recall their representatives and revoke their decisions.

In the final analysis, libertarian socialism cannot function optimally -- and indeed may be fatally undermined -- unless the present system of competing nation-states is replaced by a cooperative system of decentralized bioregions of self-governing communities confederated on a global scale. For, if a libertarian-socialist nation is forced to compete in the global market for scarce raw materials and hard cash with which to buy them, the problems of "petty-bourgeois cooperativism," previously noted, will have merely been displaced to a higher level of organization. That is, instead of individual cooperatives acting as collective capitalists and competing against each other in the national market for profits, raw materials, etc., the nation as a whole will become the "collective capitalist" and compete against other nations in the global capitalist market -- a situation that is bound to reintroduce many problems, e.g. militarism, imperialism, and alienating/disempowering measures in the workplace, justified in the name of "efficiency" and "global competitiveness."

To some extent such problems can be reduced in the transition period by achieving self-sufficiency within bioregions (which should be easier in a libertarian-socialist economy where artificial needs are not manufactured by massive advertising campaigns of giant profit-seeking corporations) and by limiting interbioregional trade as much as possible to other members of the libertarian-socialist federation. However, to eliminate the problem completely, anarchists envision a global council of bioregional delegates to coordinate global cooperation based on policies formulated and approved at the grassroots by the confederal principles outlined above.

I.5.4 How will anything ever be decided by all those confederal conferences?

Firstly, we doubt that a free society will spend all its time in assemblies or organising confederal conferences. As these congresses are concerned purely with joint activity and coordination, it is likely that they will not be called very often. Different associations and cooperatives have a functional need for cooperation and so would meet more regularly and take action on practical activity which affects a specific section of a community or group of communities. Not every issue that a member of a community is interested in is necessarily best discussed at a meeting of all members of a community or at a confederal conference.

In other words, communal assemblies and conferences will have specific, well defined agendas, and so there is little danger of "politics" taking up everyone's time. Hence, far from discussing abstract laws and pointless motions which no one actually knows much about, the issues discussed in these conferences will be on specific issues which are important to those involved. In addition, the standard procedure may be to elect a sub-group to investigate an issue and report back at a later stage with recommendations. The conference can change, accept, or reject any proposals. As Kropotkin argued, anarchy would be based on "free agreement, by exchange of letters and proposals, and by congresses at which delegates met to discuss well specified points, and to come to an agreement about them, but not to make laws. After the congress was over, the delegates [would return]. . .not with a law, but with the draft of a contract to be accepted or rejected" [Conquest of Bread, p. 131]

By reducing conferences to functional bodies based on concrete issues, the problems of endless discussions can be reduced, if not totally eliminated. In addition, as functional groups would exist outside of these communal confederations (for example, industrial collectives would organise conferences about their industry with invited participants from consumer groups), there would be a limited agenda in most communal get-togethers.

The most important issues would be to agree on the guidelines for industrial activity, communal investment (e.g. houses, hospitals, etc.) and overall coordination of large scale communal activities. In this way everyone would be part of the commonwealth, deciding on how resources would be used to maximise human well-being and ecological survival. The problems associated with "the tyranny of small decisions" would be overcome without undermining individual freedom. (In fact, a healthy community would enrich and develop individuality by encouraging independent and critical thought, social interaction, and empowering social institutions based on self-management).

Is such a system fantasy? As Murray Bookchin points out, "Paris in the late eighteenth century was, by the standards of that time, one of the largest and economically most complex cities in Europe: its population approximated a million people. . .Yet in 1793, at the height of the French Revolution, the city was managed institutionally almost entirely by [48] citizen assemblies. . .and its affairs were coordinated by the Commune. . .and often, in fact, by the assemblies themselves, or sections as they were called, which established their own interconnections without recourse to the Commune." [Society and Nature, issue no. 5, p. 96] Kropotkin argued that these "sections" (as they were called) showed "the principles of anarchism, expressed some years later in England by W. Godwin, . . . had their origin, not in theoretical speculations, but in the deeds of the Great French Revolution" [The Great French Revolution, Vol. 1, p.204]

In other words, it is possible. It has worked. With the massive improvements in communication technology it is even more viable than before. Whether or not we reach such a self-managed society depends on whether we desire to be free or not.

I.5.5 Aren't participatory communities and confederations just new states?

No. As we have seen in section B.2, a state can be defined both by its structure and its function. As far as structure is concerned, a state involves the politico-military and economic domination of a certain geographical territory by a ruling elite, based on the delegation of power into the hands of the few, resulting in hierarchy (centralised authority). As Kropotkin argued, "the word 'State' . . . should be reserved for those societies with the hierarchical system and centralisation." [Ethics, p. 317f]

In a system of federated participatory communities, however, there is no ruling elite, and thus no hierarchy, because power is retained by the lowest-level units of confederation through their use of direct democracy and mandated, rotating, and recallable delegates to meetings of higher-level confederal bodies. This eliminates the problem in "representative" democratic systems of the delegation of power leading to the elected officials becoming isolated from and beyond the control of the mass of people who elected them. As Kropotkin pointed out, an anarchist society would make decisions by "means of congresses, composed of delegates, who discuss among themselves, and submit proposals, not laws, to their constituents" [The Conquest of Bread, p. 135], and so is based on self-government, not representative government (i.e. statism).

In addition, in representative democracy, elected officials who must make decisions on a wide range of issues inevitably gather an unelected bureaucracy around them to aid in their decision making, and because of its control of information and its permanency, this bureaucracy soon has more power than the elected officials (who themselves have more power than the people). In the system we have sketched, policy proposals formulated by higher-level confederal bodies would often be presented to the grassroots political units for discussion and voting (though the grassroots units could also formulate policy proposals directly), and these higher-level bodies would often need to consult experts in formulating such proposals. But these experts would not be retained as a permanent bureaucracy, and all information provided by them would be available to the lower-level units to aid in their decision making, thus eliminating the control of information on which bureaucratic power is based.

Perhaps it will be objected that communal decision making is just a form of "statism" based on direct, as opposed to representative, democracy -- "statist" because the individual is still be subject to the rules of the majority and so is not free. This objection, however, confuses statism with free agreement (i.e. cooperation). Since participatory communities, like productive syndicates, are voluntary associations, the decisions they make are based on self-assumed obligations (see section A.2.11 - Why are anarchists in favour of direct democracy?), and dissenters can leave the association if they so desire.

In addition, in a free society, dissent and direct action can be used by minorities to press their case (or defend their freedom) as well as debate. As Carole Pateman argues, "Political disobedience is merely one possible expression of the active citizenship on which a self-managing democracy is based." In this way, individual liberty can be protected in a communal system and society enriched by opposition, confrontation and dissent. Without self-management and minority dissent, society would become "an ideological cemetery" which would "stifle the dialectic of ideas that thrives" on discussion, and we may had, stifle the development of the individuals within that society. [Bookchin, "Communalism: The Democratic Dimension of Anarchism", Democracy and Nature no. 8, p.9] Therefore it is likely that a society based on voluntary agreements and self-management would, out of interpersonal empathy and self-interest, create a society that encouraged individuality and respect for minorities.

Therefore, a commune's participatory nature is the opposite of statism. April Carter, in Authority and Democracy agrees. She states that "commitment to direct democracy or anarchy in the socio-political sphere is incompatible with political authority" [p. 69] and that the "only authority that can exist in a direct democracy is the collective 'authority' vested in the body politic . . . it is doubtful if authority can be created by a group of equals who reach decisions be a process of mutual persuasion." [p. 380]

Anarchists assert that individuals and the institutions they create cannot be considered in isolation. Authoritarian institutions will create individuals who have a servile nature, who cannot govern themselves. Anarchists, therefore, consider it commonsense that individuals, in order to be free, must have take part in determining the general agreements they ` make with their neighbours which give form to their communities. Otherwise, society itself could not exist and individual's would be subject to rules others make for them (following orders is hardly libertarian). Therefore, anarchists recognise the social nature of humanity and the fact any society based on contracts (like capitalism) will be marked by authority, injustice and inequality, not freedom. As Bookchin points out, "To speak of 'The Individual' part from its social roots is as meaningless as to speak of a society that contains no people or institutions." [Op. Cit., p. 15]

Society cannot be avoided and "[u]nless everyone is to be psychologically homogeneous and society's interests so uniform in character that dissent is simply meaningless, there must be room for conflicting proposals, discussion, rational explication and majority decisions - in short, democracy." [Op. Cit, pp. 15-16] Those who reject democracy in the name of liberty (such as many supporters of capitalism) usually also see the need for laws and hierarchical authority (particularly in the workplace). This is unsurprising, as such authority is the only means left by which collective activity can be coordinated if "democracy" is rejected (usually as "statist", which is ironic as the resulting institutions, such as a capitalist company, are far more statist than directly democratic ones).

However, it should be noted that communities can expel individuals or groups of individuals who constantly hinder community decisions. As Malatesta argued, "for if it is unjust that the majority should oppress the minority, the contrary would be quite as unjust; and if the minority has a right to rebel, the majority has a right to defend itself. . . it is true that this solution is not completely satisfactory. The individuals put out of the association would be deprived of many social advantages, which an isolated person or group must do without, because they can only be procured by the cooperation of a great number of human beings. But what would you have? These malcontents cannot fairly demand that the wishes of many others should be sacrificed for their sakes." [A Talk about Anarchist-Communism, p. 29]

Nevertheless, such occurrences would be rare (for reasons discussed in section I.5.6), and their possibility merely indicates that free association also means the freedom not to associate. This a very important freedom for both the majority and the minority, and must be defended. However, as an isolated life is impossible, the need for communal associations is essential. It is only by living together in a supportive community can individuality be encouraged and developed along with individual freedom.

Lastly, that these communities and confederations are not just states with new names in indicated by two more considerations. Firstly, in regard to the activities of the confederal conferences, it is clear that they would not be passing laws on personal behaviour or ethics, i.e. not legislating to restrict the liberty of those who live in these communities they represent. For example, a community is unlikely to pass laws outlawing homosexuality or censoring the press, for reasons discussed in the next section. Hence they would not be "law-making bodies" in the modern sense of the term, and thus not statist. Secondly, these confederations have no means to enforce their decisions. In other words, if a confederal congress makes a decision, it has no means to force people to act or not act in a certain way. We can imagine that there will be ethical reasons why participants will not act in ways to oppose joint activity -- as they took part in the decision making process they would be considered childish if they reject the final decision because it did not go in their favour.

So, far from being new states by which one section of a community imposes its ethical standards on another, the anarchist commune is just a public forum. In this forum, issues of community interest (for example, management of the commons, control of communalised economic activity, and so forth) are discussed and policy agreed upon. In addition, interests beyond a local area are also discussed and delegates for confederal conferences are mandated with the wishes of the community. Hence, administration of things replaces government of people, with the community of communities existing to ensure that the interests of all are managed by all and that liberty, justice and equality are more than just ideals.

For these reasons, a libertarian-socialist society would not create a new state as far as structure goes. But what about in the area of function? As noted in section B.2.1, the function of the state is to enable the ruling elite to exploit subordinate social strata, i.e. to derive an economic surplus from them, which it does by protecting certain economic monopolies from which the elite derives its wealth, and so its power. But this function is completely eliminated by the economic structure of anarchist society, which, by abolishing private property, makes it impossible for a privileged elite to form, let alone exploit "subordinate strata" (which will not exist, as no one is subordinate in power to anyone else). In other words, by placing the control of productive resources in the hands of the workers councils and community assemblies, every worker is given free access to the means of production that he or she needs to earn a living. Hence no one will be forced to pay usury (i.e. a use-fee) in the form of appropriated surplus value (profits) to an elite class that monopolizes the means of production. In short, without private property, the state loses its reason for existence.

I.5.6 Won't there be a danger of a "tyranny of the majority" under libertarian socialism?

There is, of course, this danger in any system of democracy, direct or indirect. However, while there is cause for concern (and anarchists are at the forefront in expressing it), the "tyranny-of-the-majority" objection fails to take note of the vast difference between direct and "representative" forms of democracy.

In the current system, as we pointed out in section B.5, voters are mere passive spectators of occasional, staged, and highly rehearsed debates among candidates preselected by the corporate elite, who pay for campaign expenses. More often the public is expected to choose simply on the basis of political ads and news sound bites. Moreover, once the choice is made, cumbersome and ineffective recall procedures insure that elected representatives can act more or less as they (or rather, their wealthy sponsors) please. The function, then, of the electorate in bourgeois "representative government" is ratification of "choices" that have been already made for them!

By contrast, in a direct, libertarian democracy, decisions are made following public discussion in community assemblies open to all. After decisions have been reached, outvoted minorities -- even minorities of one -- still have ample opportunity to present reasoned and persuasive counterarguments to try to change the decision. This process of debate, disagreement, challenge, and counter-challenge, which goes on even after the defeated minority has temporarily acquiesced in the decision of the majority, is virtually absent in the representative system, where "tyranny of the majority" is truly a problem. In addition, minorities can secede from an association if the decision reached by it are truly offensive to them.

And let's not forget that in all likelihood, issues of personal conduct or activity will not be discussed in the neighbourhood assemblies. Why? Because we are talking about a society in which most people consider themselves to be unique, free individuals, who would thus recognise and act to protect the uniqueness and freedom of others. Unless people are indoctrinated by religion or some other form of ideology, they can be tolerant of others and their individuality. If this is not the case now, it has to do with the existence of authoritarian social relationships and the type of person they create -- relationships that will be dismantled under libertarian socialism.

Today an authoritarian worldview, characterized by an inability to think beyond the categories of domination and submission, is imparted by conditioning in the family, schools, religious institutions, clubs, fraternities, the army, etc., and produces a type of personality that is intolerant of any individual or group perceived as threatening to the perpetuation of that worldview and its corresponding institutions and values. Thus, as Bakunin argues, "public opinion" is potentially intolerant "simply because hitherto this power has not been humanized itself; it has not been humanized because the social life of which it is ever the faithful expression is based. . .in the worship of divinity, not on respect for humanity; in authority, not on liberty; on privilege, not on equality; in the exploitation, not on the brotherhood, of men; on iniquity and falsehood, not on justice and truth. Consequently its real action, always in contradiction of the humanitarian theories which it professes, has constantly exercised a disastrous and depraving influence" [God and the State, p. 43ff].

In an anarchist society, however, a conscious effort will be made to dissolve the institutional and traditional sources of the authoritarian/submissive type of personality, and thus to free "public opinion" of its current potential for intolerance. In addition, it should be noted that as anarchists recognise that the practice of self-assumed political obligation implied in free association also implies the right to practice dissent and disobedience as well. As Carole Pateman notes, "[e]ven if it is impossible to be unjust to myself, I do not vote for myself alone, but alone with everyone else. Questions about injustice are always appropriate in political life, for there is no guarantee that participatory voting will actually result in decisions in accord with the principles of political morality." [The Problem of Political Obligation, p. 160]

If an individual or group of individuals feel that a specific decision threatens their freedom (which is the basic principle of political morality in an anarchist society) they can (and must) act to defend that freedom. "The political practice of participatory voting rests in a collective self-consciousness about the meaning and implication of citizenship. The members of the political association understand that to vote is simultaneously to commit oneself, to commit one's fellow citizens, and also to commit oneself to them in a mutual undertaking . . . a refusal to vote on a particular occasion indicates that the refusers believe . . . [that] the proposal . . . infringes the principle of political morality on which the political association is based . . A refusal to vote [or the use of direct action] could be seen as an appeal to the 'sense of justice' of their fellow citizens." [Carole Pateman, Op. Cit., p. 161]

As they no longer "consent" to the decisions made by their community they can appeal to the "sense of justice" of their fellow citizens by direct action and indicate that a given decision may have impacts which the majority were not aware. Hence direct action and dissent is a key aspect of an anarchist society and help ensure against the tyranny of the majority. Anarchism rejects the "love it or leave it" attitude that marks classical liberalism as well as Rousseau (this aspect of his work being inconsistant with its foundations in participation).

It should be stressed, however, that most anarchists do not think that the way to guard against tyranny by the majority is to resort to decision-making by consensus (where no action can be taken until every person in the group agrees) or a property system (based in contracts). Both consensus (see section A.2.12 - Is consensus an alternative to direct democracy?) and contracts (see section A.2.14 - Why is voluntarism not enough?) soon result in authoritarian social relationships developing in the name of "liberty."

For example, decision making by consensus tends to eliminate the creative role of dissent and mutate into a system that pressures people into psychic and intellectual conformity -- hardly a libertarian ideal. In the case of property- and contract-based systems, those with property have more power than those without, and so they soon determine what can and cannot be done -- in other words, the "tyranny of the minority" and hierarchical authority. Both alternatives are deeply flawed. Hence most anarchists have recognized that majority decision making, though not perfect, is the best way to reach decisions in a political system based on maximising freedom. Direct democracy in grassroots confederal assemblies and workers' councils ensures that decision making is "horizontal" in nature (i.e. between equals) and not hierarchical (i.e. governmental, between order giver and order taker).

I.5.7 What if I don't want to join a commune?

As would be expected, no one would be forced to join a commune nor take part in its assemblies. To suggest otherwise would be contrary to anarchist principles. We have already indicated why the communes would not be likely to restrict individuals with new "laws". However, what about individuals who live within the boundaries of a commune (obviously individuals can leave to find communities more in line with their own concepts of right and wrong if they cannot convince their neighbours of the validity of their ideas)? For example, a local neighbourhood may include households that desire to associate and a few that do not. Are the communal decisions binding on non-members? Obviously not. If an individual or family desire not to join (for whatever reason), their freedoms must be respected. However, this also means that they cannot benefit from communal activity and resources (such a free housing, hospitals, and so forth) and, possibly, have to pay for their use. As long as they do not exploit or oppress others, an anarchist community would respect their decision.

However, many who oppose anarchist direct democracy in the name of freedom often do so because they desire to oppress and exploit others. In other words, they oppose participatory communities because they (rightly) fear that this would restrict their ability to oppress, exploit and grow rich off the labour of others. This type of opposition can be seen from history, when rich elites, in the name of liberty, have replaced democratic forms of social decision making with representative or authoritarian ones (see section B.2.6). Regardless of what defenders of capitalism claim, "voluntary bilateral exchanges" affect third parties and can harm others indirectly. This can easily be seen from examples like concentrations of wealth which have effects across society, or crime in the local community, or the ecological impacts of consumption and production.

As a way to minimize this problem, an anarchist revolution aims to place social wealth (starting with the land) in the hands of all and to protect only those uses of it which are considered just by society as a whole. In other words, by recognising that "property" is a product of society, an anarchist society will ensure than an individual's "property" is protected by his or her fellows when it is based purely upon actual occupancy and use. As Malatesta put it, some "seem almost to believe that after having brought down government and private property we would allow both to be quietly built up again, because of respect for the freedom of those who might feel the need to be rulers and property owners. A truly curious way of interpreting our ideas." [Anarchy, p. 41]

So, it goes without saying that the minority, as in any society, will exist within the ethical norms of society and they will be "forced to adhere" to them in the same sense that they are "forced to adhere" not to murder people. Few people would say that forcing people not to commit murder is a restriction of their liberty. Therefore, while allowing the maximum of individual freedom of dissent, an anarchist community would still have to apply its ethical standards to those beyond that community. Individuals would not be allowed to murder or enslave others and claim that they are allowed to do so because they are not part of the local community (see section I.5.8 on crime in an anarchist society). Similarly, individuals would not be allowed to develop private property (as opposed to possession) simply because they wanted to. Such a "ban" on private property would not be a restriction on liberty simply because stopping the development of authority hardly counts as an authoritarian act (for an analogy, supporters of capitalism do not think that banning theft is a restriction of liberty and because this view is - currently - accepted by the majority, it is enforced it on the minority). Even the word "ban" is wrong, as it is the would-be capitalist who is trying to ban freedom for others from their "property." Members of a free society would simply refuse to recognise the claims of private property - "occupancy and use" (to use Tucker's term) would be the limits of possession - and so property would become "that control of a thing by a person which will receive either social sanction, or else unanimous individual sanction, when the laws of social expediency shall have been fully discovered." [B. Tucker, Instead of a Book, p. 131]

Therefore anarchists support the maximum of experimentations while ensuring that the social conditions that allow this experimentation are protected against concentrations of wealth and power. As Malatesta put it, "Anarchism involves all and only those forms of life that respect liberty and recognise that every person has an equal right to enjoy the good things of nature and the products of their own activity." [The Anarchist Revolution, p. 14] This means that Anarchists do not support the liberty of being a boss (anarchists will happily work with someone but not for someone). Of course, those who desire to create private property against the wishes of others expect those others to respect their wishes. So, when the would-be propertarians happily fence off their "property" and exclude others from it, could not these others remember these words from Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, and act accordingly?

"As I went rumbling that dusty highway
I saw a sign that said private property
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
This land was made for you and me"

While happy to exclude others from "their" property, such owners seem more than happy to use the resources held in common by others. They are the ultimate "free riders," desiring the benefits of society but rejecting the responsibilities that go with it. In the end, such "individualists" usually end up supporting the state (an institution they claim to hate) precisely because its the only means by which private property and their "freedom" to exercise authority can be defended .

Therefore, individuals are free not to associate, but their claims of "ownership" will be based around use rights, not property rights. Individual's will be protected by their fellows only in so far as what they claim to "own" is related to their ability to use said "property." Without a state to back up and protect property "rights," we see that all rights are, in the end, what society considers to be fair (the difference between law and social custom is discussed in section I.7.3). What the state does is to impose "rights" which do not have such a basis (i.e. those that protect the property of the elite) or "rights" which have been corrupted by wealth and would have been changed because of this corruption had society been free to manage its own affairs.

In summary, individuals will be free not to join a participatory community, and hence free to place themselves outside its decisions and activities on most issues that do not apply to the fundamental ethical standards of a society. Hence individuals who desire to live outside of anarchist communities would be free to live as they see fit but would not be able to commit murder, rape, create private property or other activities that harmed individuals. It should be noted, moreover, that this does not mean that their possessions will be taken from them by "society" or that "society" will tell them what to do with their possessions. Freedom, in a complex world, means that such individuals will not be in a position to turn their possessions into property and thus recreate capitalism. (For the distinction between "property" and "possessions," see B.3.1.) This will not be done by "anarchist police" or by "banning" voluntary agreements, but purely by recognising that "property" is a social creation and by creating a social system that will encourage individuals to stand up for their rights and cooperate with each other.

I.5.8 What about crime?

For anarchists, "crime" can best be described as anti-social acts, or behavior which harms someone else or which invades their personal space. Anarchists argue that the root cause for crime is not some perversity of human nature or "original sin," but is due to the type of society by which people are moulded. For example, anarchists point out that by eliminating private property, crime could be reduced by about 90 percent, since about 90 percent of crime is currently motivated by evils stemming from private property such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and alienation. Moreover, by adopting anarchist methods of non-authoritarian child rearing and education, most of the remaining crimes could also be eliminated, because they are largely due to the anti-social, perverse, and cruel "secondary drives" that develop because of authoritarian, pleasure-negative child-rearing practices (See section J.6 - What methods of child rearing do anarchists advocate?)

"Crime", therefore, cannot be divorced from the society within which it occurs. Society, if you like, gets the criminals it deserves. For example, anarchists do not think it unusual nor unexpected that crime exploded under the pro-free market capitalist regimes of Thatcher and Reagan. Crime, the most obvious symptom of social crisis, took 30 years to double in Britain (from 1 million incidents in 1950 to 2.2 million in 1979. However, between 1979 and 1992 the crime rate more than doubled, exceeding the 5 million mark in 1992. These 13 years were marked by a government firmly committed to the "free market" and "individual responsibility." It was entirely predictable that the social disruption, atomisation of individuals, and increased poverty caused by freeing capitalism from social controls would rip society apart and increase criminal activity. Unsurprisingly (from an anarchist viewpoint), under these pro-market governments we also saw a reduction in civil liberties, increased state centralisation, and the destruction of local government. As Malatesta put it, the classical liberalism which these governments represented could have had no other effect, for "the government's powers of repression must perforce increase as free competition results in more discord and inequality" [Anarchy, p. 46]

Hence the paradox of governments committed to "individual rights," the "free market" and "getting the state off our backs" increasing state power and reducing rights while holding office during a crime explosion is no paradox at all. "The conjucture of the rhectoric of individual freedom and a vast increase in state power," argues Carole Pateman, "is not unexpected at a time when the influence of contract doctrine is extending into the last, most intimate nooks and crannies of social life. Taken to a conclusion, contract undermines the conditions of its own existance. Hobbes showed long ago that contract - all the way down - requires absolutism and the sword to keep war at bay." [The Sexual Contract, p. 232]

Capitalism, and the contract theory on which it is built, will inevitably rip apart society. Capitalism is based upon a vision of humanity as isolated individuals with no connection other than that of money and contract. Such a vision cannot help but institutionalise anti-social acts. As Kropotkin argued "it is not love and not even sympathy upon which society is based in [humanity]. It is the conscience - be it only at the stage of an instinct - of human solidarity. It is the unconscious recognition of . . . the close dependency of every one's happiness upon the happiness of all; and of the sense of justice, or equity, which brings the individual to consider the rights of every other individual as equal to [one's] own." [Mutual Aid, p. xiv]

The social atomisation required and created by capitalism destroys the basic bonds of society - namely human solidarity - and hierarchy crushes the individuality required to understand that we share a common humanity with others and so understand why we must be ethical and respect others rights.

We should also point out that prisons have numerous negative affects on society as well as often re-inforcing criminal (i.e. anti-social) behaviour. Kropotkin originated the accurate description of prisons as "Universities of Crime" wherein the first-time criminal learns new techniques and have adapt to the prevailing ethical standards within them. Hence, prisons would have the effect of increasing the criminal tendencies of those sent there and so prove to be counter-productive. In addition, prisons do not affect the social conditions which promote many forms of crime.

We are not saying, however, that anarchists reject the concept of individual responsibility. While recognising that rape, for example, is the result of a social system which represses sexuality and is based on patriarchy (i.e. rape has more to do with power than sex), anarchists do not "sit back" and say "it's society's fault." Individuals have to take responsibility for their own actions and recognise that consequences of those actions. Part of the current problem with "law codes" is that individuals have been deprived of the responsibility for developing their own ethical code, and so are less likely to develop "civilised" social standards (see section I.7.3).

Therefore, while anarchists reject the ideas of law and a specialised justice system, they are not blind to the fact that anti-social action may not totally disappear in a free society. Therefore, some sort of "court" system would still be necessary to deal with the remaining crimes and to adjudicate disputes between citizens.

These courts would function on two levels. Firstly, if the parties involved could agree to hand their case to a third party, then the "court" in question would be the arrangements made by those parties. Secondly, if the parties could not agree (or if the victim was dead), the issue could be raised at a communal assembly and a "court" appointed to look into the issue. These "courts" would be independent from the commune, their independence strengthened by popular election instead of executive appointment of judges, by protecting the jury system of selection of random citizens by lot, and by informing jurors of their right to judge the law itself, according to their conscience, as well as the facts of a case. As Malatesta pointed out, "when differences were to arise between men [sic!], would not arbitration voluntarily accepted, or pressure of public opinion, be perhaps more likely to establish where the right lies than through an irresponsible magistrature which has the right to adjudicate on everything and everybody and is inevitably incompetent and therefore unjust?" [Anarchy, p. 43]

In the case of a "police force," this would not exist as either a public or private specialised body or company. If a local community did consider that public safety required a body of people who could be called upon for help, we imagine that a new system would be created. This system would be based around a voluntary militia system, in which all members of the community could serve if they so desired. Those who served would not constitute a professional body; instead the service would be made up of local people who would join for short periods of time and be replaced if they abused their position. Hence the likelihood that a communal militia would become corrupted by power, like the current police force or a private security firm exercising a policing function, would be vastly reduced.

Such a body would not have a monopoly on protecting others, but would simply be on call if others required it. It would no more be a "police force" than the current fire service is a police force (individuals are not banned from putting out fires today because the fire service exists, similarly individuals will be free to help stop anti-social crime by themselves in an anarchist society).

Of course there are anti-social acts which occur without witnesses and so the "guilty" party cannot be readily identified. If such acts did occur we can imagine an anarchist community taking two courses of action. The injured party may look into the facts themselves or appoint an agent to do so or, more likely, an ad hoc group would be elected at a community assembly to investigate specific crimes of this sort. Such a group would be given the necessary "authority" to investigate the crime and be subject to recall by the community if they start trying to abuse whatever authority they had. Once the investigating body thought it had enough evidence it would inform the community as well as the affected parties and then organise a court. Of course, a free society will produce different solutions to such problems, solutions no-one has considered yet and so these suggestions are just that, suggestions.

As is often stated, prevention is better than cure. This is as true of crime as of disease. In other words, crime is best fought by rooting out its causes as opposed to punishing those who act in response to these causes. For example, its hardly surprising that a culture that promotes individual profit and consumerism would produce individuals who do not respect other people (or themselves) and see them as purely means to an end (usually increased consumption). And, like everything else in a capitalist system, such as honour and pride, conscience is also available at the right price -- hardly an environment which encourages consideration for others, or even for oneself.

In addition, a society based on hierarchical authority will also tend to produce anti-social activity because the free development and expression it suppresses. Thus, irrational authority (which is often claimed to be the only cure for crime) actually helps produce it. As Emma Goldman argued, "Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, moral conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statues can only increase, but never do away with, crime" [Red Emma Speaks, p. 57]

Eric Fromm, decades latter, makes the same point:

"It would seem that the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed. By this we do not refer to individual frustrations of this or that instinctive desire but to the thwarting of the whole of life, the blockage of spontaneity of the growth and expression of man's sensuous, emotional, and intellectual capacities. Life has an inner dynamism of its own; it tends to grow, to be expressed, to be lived. . .the drive for life and the drive for destruction are not mutually interdependent factors but are in a reversed interdependence. The more the drive towards life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive towards destruction; the more life is realised, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life. Those individual and social conditions that make for suppression of life produce the passion for destruction that forms, so to speak, the reservoir from which particular hostile tendencies -- either against others or against oneself -- are nourished" [The Fear of Freedom, p. 158]

Therefore, by reorganising society so that it empowers everyone and actively encourages the use of all our intellectual, emotional and sensuous abilities, crime would soon cease to be the huge problem that it is now. As for the anti-social behavior or clashes between individuals that might still exist in such a society, it would be dealt with in a system based on respect for the individual and a recognition of the social roots of the problem. Restraint would be kept to a minimum.

Anarchists think that public opinion and social pressure would be the main means of preventing anti-social acts in an anarchist society, with such actions as boycotting and ostracising used as powerful sanctions to convince those attempting them of the errors of their way. Extensive non-cooperation by neighbours, friends and workmates would be the best means of stopping acts which harmed others.

An anarchist system of justice, we should note, would have alot to learn from aboriginal societies simply because they are examples of social order without the state. Indeed many of the ideas we consider as essential to justice today can be found in such societies. As Kropotkin argued, "when we imagine that we have made great advances in introducing, for instance, the jury, all we have done is to return to the institutions of the so-called 'barbarians' after having changed it to the advantage of the ruling classes" [The State - It's Historic Role, p. 18]

Like aboriginal justice (as documented by Rupert Ross in Returning to the Teachings: Exploring Aborginal Justice) anarchists contend that offenders should not be punished but justice achieved by the teaching and healing of all involved. Public condemnation of the wrong doing would be a key aspect of this process, but the wrong doer would remain part of the community and so the effects of their actions on others in terms of grief and pain caused. It would be likely that wrong doers would be expected to try to make amends for their act by community service or helping victims and their families.

So, from a practical viewpoint, almost all anarchists oppose prisons on both practical grounds (they do not work) and ethical grounds ("We know what prisons mean - they mean broken down body and spirit, degradation, consumption, insanity" Voltairine de Cleyre, quoted by Paul Avrich in An American Anarchist, p. 146]). The Makhnovists took the usual anarchist position on prisons:

"Prisons are the symbol of the servitude of the people, they are always built only to subjugate the people, the workers and peasants. . . Free people have no use for prisons. Wherever prisons exist, the people are not free. . . In keeping with this attitude, they [the Makhnovists] demolished prisons wherever they went." [Peter Arshinov, The History of the Makhnovist Movement, p. 153]

With the exception of Benjamin Tucker, no major anarchist writer supported the institution. Few anarchists think that private prisons (like private policemen) are compatible with their notions of freedom. All anarchists are against the current "justice" system which seems to them to be organised around revenge and punishing effects and not fixing causes.

However, there are psychopaths and other people in any society who are too dangerous to be allowed to walk freely. Restraint in this case would be the only option and such people may have to be isolated from others for their own, and others, safety. Perhaps mental hospitals would be used, or an area quarantined for their use created (perhaps an island, for example). However, such cases (we hope) would be rare.

So instead of prisons and a legal code based on the concept of punishment and revenge, anarchists support the use of pubic opinion and pressure to stop anti-social acts and the need to therapeutically rehabilite those who commit anti-social acts. As Kropotkin argued, "liberty, equality, and practical human sympathy are the most effective barriers we can oppose to the anti-social instinct of certain among us" and not a parasitic legal system. [The Anarchist Reader, p. 117]

I.5.9 What about Freedom of Speech under Anarchism?

Many express the idea that all forms of socialism would endanger freedom of speech, press, and so forth. The usual formulation of this argument is in relation to state socialism and goes as follows: if the state (or "society") owned all the means of communication, then only the views which the government supported would get access to the media.

This is an important point and it needs to be addressed. However, before doing so, we should point out that under capitalism the major media are effectively controlled by the wealthy. As we argued in section D.3, the media are not the independent defenders of freedom that they like to portray themselves as. This is hardly surprising, since newspapers, television companies, and so forth are capitalist enterprises owned by the wealthy and with managing directors and editors who are also wealthy individuals with a vested interest in the status quo. Hence there are institutional factors which ensure that the "free press" reflects the interests of capitalist elites.

However, in democratic capitalist states there is little overt censorship. Radical and independent publishers can still print their papers and books without state intervention (although market forces ensure that this activity can be difficult and financially unrewarding). Under socialism, it is argued, because "society" owns the means of communication and production, this liberty will not exist. Instead, as can be seen from all examples of "actually existing socialism," such liberty is crushed in favour of the government's point of view.

As anarchism rejects the state, we can say that this danger does not exist under libertarian socialism. However, since social anarchists argue for the communalisation of production, could not restrictions on free speech still exist? We argue no, for two reasons. Firstly, publishing houses, radio stations, and so on will be run by their workers, directly. They will be supplied by other cooperatives, with whom they will make agreements, and not by "central planning" officials, who would not exist. In other words, there is no bureaucracy of officials allocating (and so controlling) resources (and so the means of communication). Hence, anarcho-syndicalist self-management will ensure that there is a wide range of opinions in different magazines and papers. There would be community papers, radio stations, etc., and obviously they would play an increased role in a free society. But they would not be the only media. Associations, political parties, syndicates, and so on would have their own media and/or would have access to the resources of communication workers' syndicates, so ensuring that a wide range of opinions can be expressed.

Secondly, the "ultimate" power in a free society will be the individuals of which it is composed. This power will be expressed in communal and workplace assemblies that can recall delegates and revoke their decisions. It is doubtful that these assemblies would tolerate a set of would-be bureaucrats determining what they can or cannot read, see, or hear. In addition, individuals in a free society would be interesting in hearing different viewpoints and discussing them. This is the natural side-effect of critical thought (which self-management would encourage), and so they would have a vested interest in defending the widest possible access to different forms of media for different views. Having no vested interests to defend, a free society would hardly encourage or tolerate the censorship associated with the capitalist media ("I listen to criticism because I am greedy. I listen to criticism because I am selfish. I would not deny myself another's insights." [The Right to be Greedy]

Therefore, anarchism will increase freedom of speech in many important ways, particularly in the workplace (where it is currently denied under capitalism). This will be a natural result of a society based on maximising freedom and the desire to enjoy life.

We would also like to point out that during both the Spanish and Russian revolutions, freedom of speach was protected within anarchist areas.

For example, the Makhnovists in the Urkaine "fully applied the revolutionary principles of freedom of speech, of thought, of the Press, and of political association. In all the cities and towns occupied . . . [c]omplete freedom of speach, Press, assembly, and association of any kind and for everyone was immediately proclaimed." [Peter Arshinov, The History of the Makhnovist Movement, p. 153] This is confirmed by Micheal Malet, who notes that "[o]ne of the most remarkable achievements of the Makhnovists was to perserve a freedom of speach more extensive than any of their opponents." [Nestor Makhno in the Russian Civil War, p. 175]

In revolutionary Spain republicians, liberals, communists, trotskyites and many different anarchist groups all had freedom to express their views. Emma Goldman writes that "[o]n my first visit to Spain in September 1936, nothing surprised me so much as the amount of political freedom I found everywhere. True, it did not extend to Fascists . . . [but] everyone of the anti-Fascist front enjoyed political freedom which hardly existed in any of the so-called European democracies." [Vision on Fire, David Porter (ed), p.147] This is confirmed in a host of other eye-witnesses, including George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia (in fact, it was the rise of the pro-capitalist republicans and communists that introduced censorship).

Both movements were fighting a life-and-death struggle against fascist and pro-capitalist armies and so this defense of freedom of expression, given the circumstances, is particularly noteworthy.

Therefore, based upon both theory and practice we can say that anarchism will not endanger freedom of expression.

I.5.10 What about political parties?

Political parties and other interest groups will exist in an anarchist society as long as people feel the need to join them. They will not be "banned" in any way, and their members will have the same rights as everyone else. Individuals who are members of political parties or associations can take part in communal and other assemblies and try to convince others of the soundness of their ideas.

However, there is a key difference between such activity and politics under a capitalist democracy. This is that elections to positions of responsibility in an anarchist society will not be based on party tickets. In other words, when individuals are elected to administrative posts they are elected to carry out their mandate, not to carry out their party's programme. Of course, if the individuals in question had convinced their fellow workers and citizens that their programme was correct, then this mandate and the programme would be identical. However this is unlikely in practice. We would imagine that the decisions of collectives and communes would reflect the complex social interactions and diverse political opinions their members and of the various groupings within the association.

Hence anarchism will likely contain many different political groupings and ideas. The relative influence of these within collectives and communes would reflect the strength of their arguments and the relevance of their ideas, as would be expected in a free society. As Bakunin argued, "The abolition of this mutual influence would be death. And when we vindicate the freedom of the masses, we are by no means suggesting the abolition of any of the natural influences that individuals or groups of individuals exert on them. What we want is the abolition of influences which are artificial, privileged, legal, official" [quoted by Malatesta in Anarchy]

It is only when representative government replaces self-management that political debate results in "elected dictatorship" and centralisation of power into the hands of one party which claims to speak for the whole of society, as if the latter had one mind.

I.5.11 What about interest groups and other associations?

Anarchists do not think that social life can be reduced to political and economic associations alone. Individuals have many different interests and desires which they must express in order to have a truly free and interesting life. Therefore an anarchist society will see the development of numerous voluntary associations and groups to express these interests. For example, there would be consumer groups, musical groups, scientific associations, art associations, clubs, housing cooperatives and associations, craft and hobby guilds, fan clubs, animal rights associations, groups based around sex, sexuality, creed and colour and so forth. Associations will be created for all human interests and activities. As Kropotkin argued:

"He who wishes for a grand piano will enter the association of musical instrument makers. And by giving the association part of his half-days' leisure, he will soon possess the piano of his dreams. If he is fond of astronomical studies he will join the association of astronomers. . . and he will have the telescope he desires by taking his share of the associated work. . .In short, the five or seven hours a day which each will have at his disposal, after having consecrated several hours to the production of necessities, would amply suffice to satisfy all longings for luxury, however varied. Thousands of associations would undertake to supply them." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 120]

We can imagine, therefore, an anarchist society being based around associations and interest groups on every subject which fires the imagination of individuals and for which individuals want to meet in order to express and further their interests. Housing associations, for example, would exist to allow inhabitants to manage their local areas, design and maintain their homes and local parks and gardens. Animal rights and other interest groups would produce information on issues they consider important, trying to convince others of the errors of eating meat or whatever. Consumer groups would be in dialogue with syndicates about improving products and services, ensuring that syndicates produce what is required by consumers. Environment groups would exist to watch production and make sure that it is not creating damaging side effects and informing both syndicates and communes of their findings. Feminist, homosexual, bisexual and anti-racist groups would exist to put their ideas across, highlighting areas in which social hierarchies and prejudice still existed. All across society, people would be associating together to express themselves and convince others of their ideas on many different issues.

Hence in a anarchist society, free association would take on a stronger and more positive role than under capitalism. In this way, social life would take on many dimensions, and the individual would have the choice of thousands of societies to join to meet his or her interests or create new ones with other like-minded people. Anarchists would be the last to deny that there is more to life than work!

privacy policy



25