The first time I ever heard the term “anarchist” was in 1983, when I was a senior in high school. My English Lit. textbook included a unit on the British poet Percy Byshe Shelley and the brief biographical synopsis of Shelley mentioned that he had been the son-in-law of William Godwin, an “anarchist”. As a consistent “D” student, I wasn’t much inclined towards textbooks, but I remember being somewhat bemused to discover there were actually people called “anarchists”.
Five years later, much had changed. I had gone from high school stoner (think the Sean Penn character in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) to full blown outlaw to inmate to parolee to college student to dropout and drifter. Along the way, I starting getting interested in radical left-wing politics. Still not sure why. Probably because it was what I was around at the time (thank God it wasn’t the Branch Davidians). Having grown up a good church-going, God-fearing, flag-waving Republican, I probably figured it was a good way to flip off everyone from where I came from. Problem was I really didn’t like most leftists I met all that much. They reminded very much of the uptight Bible-bangers I grew up around. Just a bunch of do-gooders, know-it-alls, moralistic prigs and pharisees. I didn’t like liberals. I didn’t like Commies. I remembered having once heard of anarchists, so I looked them up in the encyclopedia and found entries on classical anarchism, Proudhon, syndicalism, Sacco and Vanzetti, all the rest. So I decided I was an anarchist and have been one ever since. Why am I an anarchist?
1. I agree with the Augustinian view of the state as a robber band writ large.
2. I agree with the Stirnerite view of political obligation. Why should I obey this guy just because he’s the president, king, mayor, etc.?
3. I agree that democracy is a system where five wolves and sheep vote on what to have for lunch.
4. I agree that the death and destruction perpetrated by states make that of individual criminals look trivial by comparison.
5. I agree with George Bernard Shaw that democracy replaces the rule of the corrupt few with the rule of the incompetent many.
6. I agree that the state exists to monopolize territory and resources, protect an artificially privileged ruling class, expand its own power and subjugate and exploit subjects.
7. I agree with Hayek that the worst gets to the top.
8. I agree that the insights of social psychology show that most people are creatures of the herd.
9. I agree that the herd is the permanent enemy of the superior individual.
10. I agree that values are subjective, that life is ultimately a war of each against all, and that survival of the fittest and the will to power are the only true laws.
So, yes, it would certainly seem that I qualify as an anarchist. I admire Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman, Berkman, De Cleyre, Malatesta, Durrutti, Mahkno, Foucault, Chomsky, Tolstoy, Karl Hess, Murray Rothbard, Murray Bookchin, Albert Jay Nock, Voltairine de Cleyre, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists, the French Situationists, the Yippies, and a newer tendency called the National-Anarchists.
That being said, I’ve often wondered why so many people who claim to be “anarchists” are such complete and total assholes. Spend any time around anarchists and one of the very first things you will notice is the addiction many of them have to excommunicating heretics from their own ranks. Deviate by two percent from the articles of faith of any particular Church of Anarchy and you will surely experience the wrath of the Inquisition. Anarchists are much like Protestants in this respect.
So how are we going to go about fighting the state? Here’s a few suggestions:
1. Build a strategic alliance of all those seeking to decentralize state power for whatever reason. In recent years, Kirkpatrick Sale has been putting together a federation of those who want their region to secede from the US empire, whether the Second Vermont Republic, the League of the South, the Christian Exodus Project, the Republic of Texas and the Free State Project.
2. Build a coalition of all those who are in agreement about the biggest issues of our time: shutting down the US empire and countering the Neocons’ foreign policy agenda, averting eventual economic collapse, rolling back the police state, and shutting down the war on drugs.
3. Develop an economic outlook that moves past the Big Government/Big Business paradigm, attacking them both as part of the system.
4. Build coalitions of interest groups who are under attack by the state but who otherwise have nothing in common into an alliance against the state. This is how the Democrats and Republicans do it. These might include smokers, gun owners, drug users, Confederate flag wavers, tax resisters, anti-NAFTA union members, prisoner advocates, homeless advocates, the mentally ill, blacks fed up with police brutality, whites fed up with affirmative action and victimology, students fed up with tyrannical prison-schools, sex workers, Holocaust-deniers (no, I’m not one of them), civil libertarians, counterculturalists, homeschoolers, religious fundamentalists, the list of enemies of the state goes and on and on.
The triumph of movements composed of such coalitions would have the effect of rolling back the state in ways that would make Goldwater Republicans look like Communists. And the High Priests of Anarchy would oppose such efforts every step of the way.
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the struggle against the modern Big Brother state will, if it is to ever become successful, take place outside the realm of the particular sects of Anarchy.