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True Democracy: Anarchism as Order

category elsewhere | miscellaneous | opinion / analysis author Wednesday December 19, 2007 00:59author by Wesley - Common Cause Report this post to the editors

When reports of social breakdown are reported on the news, we always hear that it is 'anarchy'. What can it mean when we say we are anarchists? Chaos and terror? Anarchy means no rulers, just like mon-archy means one ruler explains Wes

In places like Somalia and Afghanistan the problem is not an absence of rulers, but too many rulers. The violence and chaos is the product of warlords, each a petty authoritarian trying to grab more power. Anarchists, those who believe in society without rulers, cannot possibly support chaos, because chaos and disorder breed authoritarianism.

The influential Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta pointed out a long time ago that: 'apart from brute force' the origin and justification for authority lies in social disorganization. When a community has needs and its members do not know how to organize spontaneously to provide them an authority satisfies those needs by utilizing the services of all and directing them as well as imposing itself and throwing its weight around, the less organized we have been, the more prone are we to be imposed on by a few individuals, organization, far from creating authority, is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each one of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in the collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of leaders.

The question is not order versus disorder, but the type of order we want, and how we can organize to secure it. For this it makes sense to go back to another term that rulers have cynically manipulated to their advantage democracy, rule by the people. If the people rule then there is no room for a ruling class. While it is certainly preferable to have some degree of choice over who rules, having some input into who rules is not the same as having control over our own lives. Real democracy means directly democratic assemblies in our communities and in our workplaces, which then federate, as coordination is an absolute necessity. It is not enough to have pieces of paper that say that the people rule. True democracy is something that we have to live on a day to day basis.

To have such a real, lived freedom, one where we control our lives together with our fellow citizens, if we are to have a society without rulers, then we cannot possibly stop at opposing the political ruling class. What we live is more important than what it says on a piece of paper, and the reality is that economic warlords control our lives at work and in our communities. We oppose governments, but at least they have to pretend to be responsible to us. People like Stephan Harper talk about getting big government off of our backs, not to give us more control over our lives, our work, or our communities, but to put gigantic business on our backs, which does not even pretend to be democratic.

Their opposition to the power of the state is the opposition of the warlord, who wants to the power to dominate and exploit. This is also why they always want more police and prisons, and fewer rights for us, when they talk about a smaller state. They are usually pretty good at hiding what they really want, but it peeks out at times, like when Conrad Black said, "I'm not prepared to re-enact the French Revolution's renunciation of the rights of the nobility". That is the truth of who they are, and how they see the rest of us.

This is why we are anarchist communists. Capitalism only means the liberty of the powerful to oppress the rest of us. Socialism has always been about opposing the tyranny of the boss class, but it defeats the purpose if we put the power in the hands of the state. The choice between an economic ruling class (ie the bosses) or the political ruling class (ie politicians) is a false one. We say neither, we want freedom. And we can only secure this by organizing, by building our capacity to self govern, through federated, directly democractic assemblies, in our own autonomous organizations.

This article is from Issue 1 of Linchpin, the newspaper of the Ontario anarchist organization Common Cause. You will find the other articles from and a PDF file of that issue at

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