Jack Taylor 1972
Source: Broadsheet # 70, October 1972;
Transcribed: by Curtis Price.
Ivison’s article, “Why I am Not An Anarchist” (Broadsheet # 69) prompts a reply.
In defence of anarchism I may state as follows: Anarchism is not an authoritarian creed despite the fact that some anarchists could be authoritarians. Anarchy – negation of authority – is a society without a government and libertarianism. partakes of it. It is a free society; a society without rulers and ruled, leaders and led, masters and slaves. Anarchy is not only on the side of freedom but is equivalent to freedom.
Contrary to Anarchy is the governmental society which is equivalent to hierarchy, bureaucracy , regimentation, oppression, submission,, It is brutality and force; law and order. Law by the rich, order for the poor. It is legislation of privileges and exploitation. Based on violence it is violence.
This is as far as definitions go. But Ivison would not be satisfied by definitions, and rightly so, if he were to prove his case. He does try to bring evidence forward for his view:
“The most usual notion is that convinced anarchists as a revolutionary vanguard, will educate the people to come to see their ‘real’ interests. Man, it is said, is a rational animal and, once he sees the light, he will join in a general strike which will destroy the power of the State and usher in a free society in which various groups will ‘organize’ and combine into federations, In” accordance with their natural tendencies and their real interests’ ‘(Bakunin).”
What revolutionary vanguard :does Ivison refer to? Anarchists are no communists or trotskyists or maoists, they are plain revolutionaries. They do not intend to lead the masses towards a free and classless society because they are a part of the masses themselves and adhere faithfully to the motto of the First International: The emancipation of the workers is an act of the workers themselves. If the masses wait for a revolutionary vanguard to lead them to the classless society or the free society, they will neither be free nor classless. There is enough evidence in support of the foregoing statement.
The function of the anarchists as revolutionaries is to expose and fight ideologies. Anarchists propound the view that the destruction of ideologies liberates the masses and opens the door to the construction of the free and classless society. They urge the masses to use direct action, which precludes any concept of revolutionary vanguard and ideologies.
As to rationality or irrationality one may argue endlessly but, from an anarchist point of view, neither a rational nor an irrational slavery is desirable; it is slavery. Libertarians argue that some people prefer slavery to freedom. The strange thing is that they do it in the name of freedom. The only explanation that one can put forward is that the masses, victims of ideologies, are unable to distinguish between real and apparent interests. So the destruction of ideology becomes the first premise of any anarchist activity.
“But if everyone is so good and ‘really’ wants an anarchist society, then why have we not got one by now?”
Even if some anarchists hold goodness, or badness, as the central core of their theories such concepts are irrelevant to anarchism. Give an angel power and he, she or it, will turn into a devil, what makes Stalin, Hitler or Americans terrible is not proclivity to bad doings but the power they command. As to “why have we not got an anarchist society?” -the answer is simple; either ideologies are very strong or the “genital” character very weak. It is not easy to break a political armour established for centuries and I, for one, have no illusions about this.
If the various facts or suggestions enumerated by Ivison point to “the utopianism of the social revolution, of the notion that a state of affairs (the ‘free society’)could ever occur when all lived In harmony,” I may point out that utopians base their utopia on empirical evidence such as the Kronstadt Commune, autogestion in Aragona, etc.
“The notion of a social revolution ushering in a free society is impossible, It is a wish-fulfilling phantasy which is factually Incorrect because people do have conflicting interests – even the workers seem more concerned with job conditions than with freedom.”
The possibility or impossibility of a free society is in the domain of wishes and if the masses wish a free society then its materialization could be realized. But to argue that a free society is impossible is historically incorrect.
To claim that “a free society is impossible” on the basis of existence of “conflicting interests” is to miss the point. Free society does not imply a lack of conflicting interests but absence of a dominant interest or interests. What makes our society an unfree society is not the conflicting interests but an interest, or interests, imposed upon us by force; by organized violence named “law and order.”
“The anarchist position ... also involves imposing freedom on people,” Imposing freedom is a contradiction in terms for imposed freedom is not freedom. If Ivison looks upon the social revolution as an enforcement of freedom then I regret his myopic vision. The social revolution is social precisely because it destroys all barriers preventing realization of the libertarian society. If today we rarely talk of the social revolution it is because we are not interested in it but in coups d’etat or party dictatorships which is: we are playing ideologies.
“If we free ourselves of anarchist morallsm, we can see that freedom is not a question of a future society and a total (and impossible) change in social relationships.”
Surely a man who sacrifices present day freedom to some futuristic ideal of freedom is not a free man precisely because he has sacrificed his freedom. Nevertheless to argue that a person is free in an unfree society is wishful thinking. In a community of slaves you are free to be a slave.
“Being free involves the rejection of ultimates of all kinds – the rejection of any single ultimate on which all things depend for their existence (such as a God), the rejection of any ultimate reality (so that nothing is more real than any other) in favour of ordinary everyday existence, the rejection of any ultimately simple things as opposed to complex historical things.”
The rejection of all ultimates in reference to rejecting everyday existence is verbalistically an easy task but such a rejection in fact is another way of escaping reality; it is rationalization of libertarian futilitarianism, escapism and political impotence. Claims such as:
“It may be that it is the facts which make one free, that the hallmark of freedom is freedom from moralism, from deluded notions about things which ought to be done, so that one is not dependent, obedient and servile, not self-denying, self-frustrating, and self-deluded about the interests of those who manipulate him, just because one has a realistic awareness of what is going on, of what is being done’ to one, of what the actual motives of the authoritarians are and of what one’s own interests are.” are well-formulated. Nevertheless if for pay or for existence one depends on the system, one is to some extent servile to it. The fact that one spends three-quarters of one’s time working is not only self-denying and self-frustrating but also a sacrifice of individuality to this hateful enemy; the system, the authority, the government and the capitalist; to the anti-libertarian forces in life.
In conclusion I may say that if the things are put in proper perspective the rest follows. No libertarian can be a libertarian in a non-libertarian society. This is also true for the anarchists. The difference is that anarchists know it and, therefore, try to bring about an anarchist society. Libertarians also know it but instead try to justify their inactivity. Surely there are degrees of freedom which permit writing the Broadsheet but to the uncommitted social theorist the antipode to the authoritarian society is the anarchist society. Therefore any movement towards freedom is a movement towards anarchy. The libertarian dilemma is to choose one of the two alternatives; either to continue to interpret the system and the world around them or to join the anarchists and try to change the system in a libertarian way.
Jack the Anarchist