Anarchism Isn’t a Social System

Despite not using social media, I still find myself entering discussions with people who remain convinced, despite all of the evidence around us, that statist is the best -ism. In one of the more entertaining conversations on the topic I’ve had, the statist said, “Anarchism sucks as a social system.” I surprised him when I agreed. Anarchism does indeed suck as a social system because a social system can never be anarchism by definition.

Consider the etymology of anarchism. The word anarchism is composed of the Ancient Greek prefix an-, meaning without, and the word arkhos, meaning ruler. Therefore, anarchism literally means without rulers. Now consider a few of the popular social systems advocated by self-proclaimed anarchists. I will start with anarcho-communism. The inclusion of the word communism tells you up front that the system isn’t going to be without rulers. Anarcho-communists believe in the abolition of private property and the implementation of some bizarre system of personal (which they insist definitely isn’t private) property and collectively owned property. The question is, who defines what constitutes private personal property versus collectively owned property? Collectives using democratic principles, of course! Therein lies the problem. A democratic system necessarily has a ruler, the majority vote. If you’re desires don’t align with the majority vote, you’d better shut your trap or face the consequences (which will probably be decided by the same people who voted against your desires)!

What about the mutualists? Mutualism is better defined than anarcho-communism, but just barely. Mutualists advocate for a mutual-credit bank that provides producers nearly interest-free loans (a little interest is OK to cover overhead expenses and we all know such a system could never be manipulated or abused). Moreover, mutualism has a slightly less convoluted system of private property based on usage. If you’re using property for productive purposes, you get to keep using it. If you’re no longer using property for productive uses, someone else can claim it. Hence we’re faced with the questions, who defines what is nearly interest-free in regards to loans and who defines what productive use of property is? Whoever is allowed to answer those questions and enforce their dictates is by definition a ruler.

Finally, let’s consider anarcho-capitalism. According to every other flavor of anarchism, anarcho-capitalism isn’t real anarchism. I guess that means I can skip it. Anyways, if you were curious, the rulers under anarcho-capitalism are the private property owners.

I can think of no social system that could also be without rulers. Therefore, I cannot think of any social system that fit the definition of anarchism. Maybe I lack creativity. Feel free to correct me. Until I’m corrected, I will continue to advocate that anarchism is a method of individual liberation rather than a social system.

The next logical question is, how do I view anarchism through the lens of a method of individual liberation? The answer to that is I view it as methodologies that allow individuals to ignore, bypass, cripple, neuter, obliterate, or otherwise free themselves from unwanted hierarchy. This is one reason I continue to cite the works of Samuel Edward Konkin III. If you set aside his views on Agorist class theory, Agorism is a methodology that uses counter-economics to allow individuals to bypass and potentially cripple and even destroy the hierarchy of the State. It also advocates for individuals to be entrepreneurs so they can control their livelihood rather than depend on another entrepreneur. I also continue to cite the works of Max Stirner, Renzo Novatore, and Friedrich Nietzsche because their writings serve as methods for individuals to liberate themselves from the thought structures (brainwashing) trapping them into believing that being subject to a hierarchy is necessary (or even more absurdly, freedom). The works of crypto-anarchists and the products of cypherpunks are also of significant value because they allow individuals to liberate themselves from the corporate/government surveillance apparatus.

Once freed from unwanted hierarchy, an anarchist is able to define their lives on their terms. They may decide to associate freely with specific other individuals for mutual benefit. Those associates may be long lasting or very short lived. They may choose to help or harm others (and face the consequences of either). They may choose to try to survive on their own. But before they can forge ahead with their life on their own terms, they must be free to do so. Anarchism is, in my opinion, the methodology that one can use to be without rules, an anarchist by the literal definition.

Bypassing Online Censorship

This post reiterates a theme this blog had for a long time. If you don’t own your publishing platform, you’re at the mercy of whoever does. I’m bringing this topic up again for two reasons. The first reason is as a response to the number of messages friends keep sending me about individuals or groups they follow, all of whom express opinions not in line with the party in power, being removed from the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The second reason is to give some historical context about the nature of avoiding censorship.

Whenever somebody alerts me that an anarchist, libertarian, Austrian economist, or any other individual outside of the mainstream gets banned from Twitter or Facebook, I roll my eyes. Of course they were removed. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, etc. are all services that depend on having a large user base. Any online service that depends on having a large user base is going to cater to the mainstream. Moreover, the mainstream attitude is very much in favor of censorship. In order to cater to the mainstream, these services will remove anybody who expresses ideals outside of the mainstream.

Censorship isn’t a new phenomenon. I will actually argue that it’s the norm rather than the exception. The concept of free speech as we understand it is the product of Enlightenment thinking. And while the Enlightenment was popular throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn’t as popular throughout the rest of the world and its popularity has waned significantly in Europe. But even Enlightenment thinkers often supported censorship of ideas they found especially distasteful.

Just as censorship isn’t a new phenomenon, neither is bypassing censorship. Anarchists are often targets of censorship. Not surprisingly many governments overtly censored anarchists, but even private publishers are often unwilling to publish and distribute material written by anarchists. As a result zines became a popular way for anarchists to publish and distribute their writings. Under the Soviet Union, any literature deemed counterrevolutionary (in other words any literature that showed the communist leadership as anything other than saints) was typically censored. The heavy handed censorship of the Soviet Union gave rise to Samizdat.

Both zines and Samizdat material were self-published works. The author or one of their associates would create copies using whatever means available, usually photocopies or hidden printing presses, to create copies of their works. Those copies were then distributed by hand. Often the copies would circulate from person to person. Zines and Samizdat material were typically crude because they were created with no budget and without the benefit of sophisticated printing equipment. Neither usually circulated far. A handful of copies would usually be traded amongst a handful of like minded individuals.

Today’s modern world has analogs to zines and Samizdat. Self-hosted services such as Mastadon and Element allow like minded individuals to communicate with each other via services that they can control. Peer-to-peer services such as Retroshare allow each individual to completely control their own node. It’s also possible to self-host a website. This blog is hosted on a server in my basement. There are also old school methods such as private e-mail lists that allow anybody with an e-mail client to connect to an e-mail server being hosted by a like minded individual.

The most common criticism of these services is that not everybody is on them. While true, this is a feature, not a bug, for anybody interested in distributing ideas outside of the mainstream. Do you think your grandparents are going to enjoy or be convinced by your radical posts on Facebook? If you do, you’re a fool. The only result of posting your non-mainstream ideas to centralized services used by the masses is its removal because eventually Karen is going to see it, she is going to be offended by it, and she is going to report it. Shortly after she reports it, it will be removed because the service needs her (or more specifically the masses who think like her) more than you.