A reflection on the anarchist conception and the risks that it may increasingly become an ideology like any other, despotic, authoritarian, completely useless.
The history of the ruling classes and the state rulers has always been characterized by the quest for uniformity and the suppression of variety.
The birth of nation states saw the emergence of the formula “une foi, un roi, une loi” aimed at enshrining the need for uniformity in terms of religious faith, political obedience and legal observance. Only through uniformity can those in power master people and things.
This need for uniformity was also present in industrial production and it was characterized by the expression, made famous by Frederick Winslow Taylor and the theorists of work organization, of the “one best way“. They studied the various stages of a productive activity in search of what they thought was the best way to carry it out. And this way was then applied to everyone, despite differences between individuals. They conceived the worker as a man-mass, replaceable, interchangeable, docile, obedient to the dictates of the master. For Taylor the worker doing menial jobs “shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type.” [1911, The Principles of Scientific Management].
As for the mass of consumers, is famous the phrase that we find in Henry Ford autobiography concerning his Model T car: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” (1922, My Life and Work)
In more recent times, the philosopher Herbert Marcuse has characterized the human being of modern societies as a one-dimensional being, functional to mass production, mass consumption and mass culture (1964, One Dimensional Man).
However, things have not always been that way.
In the past, the Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries) introduced social criticism, religious tolerance, scientific research, and contributed to the emergence of liberalism and socialism in the political and economic spheres and of cosmopolitanism-internationalism on the world scene. Horizons widened with travel and geographical discoveries, anthropologists went in search of new cultures, the advancement of knowledge showed the rich variety of biological life and cultural forms.
In some respects, the most advanced expression of these ideas of freedom, justice and variety on which the liberal and socialist approach rested turned out to be the anarchist conception.
The anarchist conception, for example, extends the liberal concept of freedom. From the idea that the freedom of an individual ends where the freedom of another person begins, it moves to the conviction, reiterated by Bakunin, that “I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation. “(1870-1871, L’empire Knouto-Germanique et la Révolution Sociale en France).
Regarding the equality upheld by the socialists, Kropotkin explicitly states that, for anarchists, equality means equity and not uniformity (1897, Anarchist Morality).
The way to promote liberty and equality consists then, for the anarchists, in accepting and practicing a plurality and variety of choices and lifestyles, for each and everyone.
The first person to call himself an anarchist, Proudhon, defined himself as such, without additions and qualifications of any sort.
Only later did intellectuals differentiate the various expressions of being an anarchist by assigning to their exponents ideological labels that were added to the prefix ‘anarcho’ (anarcho-mutualist, anarcho-individualist, anarcho-communist, anarcho-collectivist, etc.).
It then happened that many people ended by favouring their ideological label over the practical aspect of being against domination and exploitation (αν, and αρχη = contrary to dominion).
The next step, for the supporters of a specific type of anarchist society, was to think and claim that only their ideology was the valid one to fight domination and exploitation. Those who supported and propagated this position did not realise or did not want to realise that they were the bearers of a new form of domination and abuse. Their so-called good intentions had become despotic view and practices. Anarchy had become mono-anarchy or, more succinctly, monarchy: the application of a one-ideology valid for all, under the watchful eye of the new masters, the orthodox advocates of the mono-ideology.
In the past, some (Tarrida del Marmól and the proponents of anarchy without adjectives) have pointed out this risk and proposed solutions that would recover the original meaning of the term (against domination) and leave it to individuals and their voluntary communities to organise themselves according to the way of life most congenial to them.
Unfortunately, the ideological despotism of the most vociferous “anarchists” for whom their ideas and solutions are so good that they must be accepted by all, and those who do not accept them are fascists and exploiters, returns regularly, especially in the current rambling and counterproductive diatribe between anarcho-communists and anarcho-capitalists. Both are convinced that they possess the ultimate truth about how the whole of society should be organised and both would like to impose their mono-anarchy on everyone. And this for the supposed good of the entire society.
Clearly, if one wants to impose one’s views on everyone, the non-authoritarian aspect, that represents the foundation of the anarchist conception and practice, has gone out the window.
Anarchy in fact is:
- Full enlightenment (open mind)
- Full tolerance (live and let live)
- Full variety-plurality (to each his own)
Unfortunately, if the narrow-minded and intolerant views of the ideological mono-anarchists were to prevail in current debates and practices, anarchy would become yet another pretext used by the political and economic masters to make everyone accept a society based on:
- impositions instead of propositions
- conformity instead of variety
- imitation instead of experimentation
- force instead of freedom to build your life and practice your own lifestyle.
At that point, rational, freedom-loving and open-minded people would have no choice but to abandon this conceptiono-ideology, as it has been the case with other conceptions-ideologies in the past that were appropriated and distorted by people whose only purpose was to employ any means (theoretical and practical) to exert their power over others.