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Thinking about anarchism: State authority
elsewhere | miscellaneous | opinion / analysis Saturday April 29, 2006 14:29 by Gregor - WSM - Workers Solidarity
Anarchism looks to get rid of the division between rulers and ruled, to establish a new social order in which the State will have no role and no power because we will live in a society of equals where each of us takes responsibility for our own actions.
Mary Harney has banned the sale of magic mushrooms!! In a decision taken in record-quick time, Harney and her government colleagues decided that they couldn’t have us all going around sampling mind-altering fungi and maybe even enjoying them. More importantly the decision was made that we couldn’t be trusted to decide for ourselves what was safe/unsafe for each of us to try. We need such decisions to be made for us because apparently we are incapable of deciding for ourselves.
And those that rule us would have it no other way. After all if they didn’t manage to sell us the idea that we need their laws to keep us safe, their role as rulers would effectively be gone. Over 150 years ago, the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon wrote “To be governed is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded…To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorised, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished…” 1
What is quite amazing is the extent to which we have all submitted to this idea of needing ‘someone else’ to make decisions for us. If anyone has listened to recent media discussions about the increase in deaths on our roads, for example, it is impossible not to be struck by the fact that it seems the only solutions that either politicians or supposed experts can come up with are more gardai, increased penalty points etc. How about a truly radical idea?? People taking responsibility for their own actions - I won’t drive my car after a couple of pints, I won’t drive over the speed limits because I might kill someone else or myself.
The State as we know it is based on a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand it is supposedly democratic, it appears to welcome and encourage popular participation. After all we get a chance at election time to have our say in how the state is run, we get to decide in favour of or against a particular set of policies which will be implemented over the coming period. Ironically, however, it is through this very process of giving us ‘our say’ that we actually sign away our right to have any real influence over what happens. What happens is that we abrogate our ability to directly participate in decision-making and we buy into the notion that ‘someone else’ – the State, our rulers … - knows best. And once we buy into this decision we abdicate the idea of taking responsibility for our own actions. Thus the reason why people don’t drink and drive is the fear of getting caught rather than an awareness of the dangers involved. We apparently need a version of ‘Big Brother’ to keep us in check!!
But of course it doesn’t have to be so. Anarchism looks to get rid of the division between rulers and ruled, to establish a new social order in which the State will have no role and no power because we will live in a society of equals where each of us takes responsibility for our own actions. In the words of Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin
1. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: General Idea of the Revolution, p. 294
From Workers Solidarity 91, March/April 2006
PDF file online at http://www.struggle.ws/pdfs/ws/