Anarchy 66/Observations on Anarchy 62

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Follow-up and argument:



Colin ward’s article on anar­chism as a theory of organ­isa­tion was most inter­est­ing and in­struct­ive but the sting, I feel, lies in the tail. Anar­chism does pre­sent an al­tern­at­ive theory of organ­isa­tion but how do we set about mak­ing “the op­por­tun­it­ies of put­ting (it) into prac­tice”?

  So­cial ideas may well be­come im­port­ant but will they be con­cerned with “sys­tems of large vari­ety suf­fi­cient to cope with a com­plex un­pre­dict­able en­viron­ment”? It is pos­sible that they would rather be con­cerned with a com­plex, but es­sen­tially more pre­dict­able en­viron­ment in which “wel­fare” is dis­trib­uted more equably but in which the gov­ern­ment’s grip on the citi­zen is vastly in­creased—though in more subtle ways than in the past.

  Ward notes that “people have been con­di­tioned from in­fancy to the idea of ac­cept­ing an ex­ternal au­thor­ity”. Ac­cept­ing the au­thor­ity of the gov­ern­ment in the so­cial sphere ab­solves one from so much (pain­ful) re­spons­ibil­ity to one’s fellows. “They” may put awk­ward ir­ri­tat­ing ob­stacles in one’s way in cer­tain spheres but it seems that for the ma­jor­ity, un­con­cerned with so­cial and “world” prob­lems, life is re­mark­ably pleas­ant and orderly in the af­flu­ent so­ciety.

  For what are the anar­chists of­fer­ing? Free­dom yes, but how is this con­cept to be made mean­ing­ful to the ma­jor­ity? It is free­dom with re­spons­ibil­ity; prob­lems will have to be solved by the use of per­sonal ef­fort and ini­tia­tive.

  How are people to be per­suaded that this will give them a more satis­fy­ing life than the pres­ent at­ti­tude of let­ting “them” get on with it. Anar­chist organ­isa­tion would re­quire active parti­cip­a­tion not ac­qui­es­cence but I am sure that it is not im­medi­ately ap­par­ent to many people that this is “free­dom” or, indeed, worth very much.

  Rousseau was very well aware of this di­lemma, al­though he sug­gested a Legis­lator (!) as the way out for people en­meshed in a de­struc­tive so­cial pro­cess over which they had no con­trol. Sub­sti­tute “anar­chism” for “law” and this seems to sum up the situ­a­tion very well; “The so­cial spirit, which should be cre­ated by these in­sti­tu­tions, would have to pre­side over their very found­a­tion; and men would have to be before law, what they should be­come by law”.

Witney carole pateman  

I enoyed the article in anarchy 62 on anar­chism as a theory of organ­isa­tion. It is of as­sist­ance in ap­pre­ci­at­ing some of the subtle­ties of the anar­chist point of view on so­cial organ­isa­tion. As one might ex­pect in the case of a short article on a ma­jor sub­ject, it leaves a good num­ber of ques­tions un­an­swered.

  The must urgent one is simply the ques­tion of the here and now. How do we begin now to cre­ate a so­ciety of per­mis­sive in­sti­tu­tions?

  A proper an­swer to this ques­tion can only be reached if it is clearly under­stood that, in fact, a so­cial re­volu­tion is the com­ing into being of new in­sti­tu­tions which, in a longer or shorter time, be­come the dom­in­ant forms of the so­ciety. Move­ments of pro­test, demon­stra­tions, acts of viol­ence in­clud­ing armed re­volt, are use­less for actu­ally chan­ging the con­di­tions of our lives un­less they change the na­ture of the in­sti­tu­tions—so­cial, eco­nomic, and polit­ical—with­in which we live. Deca­dent, un­satis­fac­tory in­sti­tu­tions must be re­vital­ized, or new ones con­struc­ted.

  The start­ing place is at the nexus of in­tim­ate per­sonal rela­tion­ships of the in­di­vidual, which in our so­ciety, as in all past human so­ciety, has been the nuclear, con­jugal family … or no­thing. In other words, in our so­ciety, urban­ized and cap­it­al­ist, the sole pro­vi­sions for the en­cap­sula­tion of the in­di­vidual into stable so­cial bonds is through the family. And this small model family which has emerged as typ­ical of the West­ern world is too often a com­pletely un­satis­fac­tory unit to sup­port and nour­ish the in­di­vidual. And for a very large pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, chil­dren and adults, there is no basis for family rela­tion­ships at all. This may arise from any num­ber of causes: death of the par­ents, separ­a­tion, widow­hood, etc. The re­sult then is an irony that may well ap­peal to one with anar­chist sens­ibil­it­ies : the free in­di­vidual, torn loose from all sig­nif­i­cant so­cial rela­tion­ships, the help­less vic­tim of the cap­it­al­ist and the state.

  The an­swer pro­vides us with the start­ing place for the re­build­ing of so­ciety. It must be surely to find an in­sti­tu­tional form which will sup­ple­ment or re­place even­tu­ally the func­tion of the family in rela­tion to the in­di­vidual and so­ciety: pro­cre­a­tion, phys­ical sup­port, so­cial­iza­tion, so­cial inter­course, ori­ent­a­tion, etc. This form prob­ably can­not re­con­sti­tute from the earlier days of man­kind a blood or mar­riage rela­tion­ship which will pro­vide satis­fac­tor­ily for all these things in our com­plex so­ciety. It will, I think, have to be a “con­tract family”. The rela­tion­ships under which man, woman and child can live to­gether have to be re­defined so that all the iso­lated in­di­viduals of our so­ciety can be re­cre­ated as so­cial beings by be­coming part of a tightly-knit small group which will pro­vide them with the es­sen­tial of a face-to-face com­mun­ity.

  To wean people away from their pres­ent sup­port of cur­rent in­sti­tu­tions by in­tel­lec­tual argu­ments is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. How­ever un­satis­fac­tory we can show them to be, they are yet fill­ing needs in some fashion. We have got to be able to offer im­medi­ate bene­fits in new in­sti­tu­tions which will win sup­port in this very con­crete fashion. So­cial in­sti­tu­tions are the ones we can work at first, leav­ing the more dif­fi­cult polit­ical and eco­nomic ones until later after we have built a base from which we can func­tion. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the power of the cor­por­a­tion and the state over the in­di­vidual is just so much greater in pro­por­tion as he is iso­lated from close so­cial “family” inter­course with a group of his fellows. It is dif­fi­cult
in that case to re­sist ex­ac­tions of arbit­rary treat­ment.

  To sum up then, I am sug­gest­ing here that what can be done im­medi­ately to begin build­ing a new so­ciety is to begin the estab­lish­ment of new so­cial bonds be­tween in­di­viduals which will begin to pro­vide the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work for the per­form­ance of the basic so­cial func­tions in which every in­di­vidual must parti­cip­ate or be iso­lated and help­less.

Don Mills, Ontario lloyd sawyer  



Un­fortun­ately, the article on Anar­chists and Nuclear Dis­armers was so in­ac­cur­ate and so in­com­plete that it can­not be taken as a seri­ous con­trib­u­tion to the sub­ject.

  The anar­chists are not unique in their early op­posi­tion to the use of nuclear weaponsit is not true that “in­formed opin­ion of all parties, of all na­tions, was satis­fied that the A-bomb was a de­liver­ance”. The pacif­ists, the liber­tarian so­cialists, and many others have been uni­lat­er­al­ist as long as we have (the honour of mak­ing the first pro­test goes to the In­de­pend­ent Labour Party, who pub­lished Bob Edwards’ pamph­let War on the People in 1943—two years before the Bomb was used). Nor are the anar­chists unique in their early pub­lica­tion of the ef­fects of nuclear weapons—it is not true that “they printed the facts while in­formed opin­ion was silent” or that “in­formed opin­ion took years to catch up with the anar­chists”. The facts about the Bomb were pub­lished by all kinds of papers, and were after all taken almost en­tirely from of­fi­cial sources (the most im­port­ant of these were the Amer­ican Gov­ern­ment’s Strategic Bombing Surveys of 1947).

  But above all, the article—de­spite its title—scarcely men­tioned the sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ship be­tween the anar­chists and the nuclear dis­arm­ers. Anar­chists have been in­volved in the uni­lat­er­al­ist move­ment through­out the last dec­ade, espe­cially in the more rad­ical sec­tions of the move­ment—the Non-Violent Re­sist­ance Group, Pacif­ist Youth Action Group, the Direct Action Com­mit­tee, Polaris Action, the Com­mit­tee of 100, and so on. Some anar­chists may be­lieve that “an anar­chist does not court ar­rest”, but there are other anar­chists who have done so several times, and have played an active part in de­velop­ing the theory and prac­tice of civil dis­obe­di­ence. The evid­ence for this ap­pears in many back num­bers of <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: freedom">freedom and anarchy.

London n.w.