Anarchy: noun. 1. Absence of any form of political authority. 2. Political disorder and confusion. 3. Absence of any cohering principle, as a common standard or purpose. [Greek anarkhia, without a ruler] (American Heritage Dictionary). Anarchy is a political philosophy shrouded in misconception. This misconception is caused by the diversity of the subject of anarchism itself, which cannot be characterized by simple slogans or television plugs. In theory, anarchy provides the most personal freedom for the individual. Anarchy is more than just politics; it is a way of life encompassing political, pragmatic and personal ways of life.
Anarchy, however, remains but a theory to the human race. In fact, human nature undermines the ultimate utopian idea of freedom i.e. there will always be one person wanting power over another. In an ideal anarchist's commune, every single person must use his or her freedom responsibly. The power-hungry human will ultimately destroy peace. "Anarchism strives to reach peace, but there will always be those in opposition to peace, either to obtain power or to ultimately corrupt utopia," states Dave Roediger in the Haymarket Scrapbook.
Even though anarchy remains a theory, the idea itself has existed for over two hundred years, not only outlasting civilizations, but thriving throughout time. The French Revolution,
begun in 1789, had a strong pro-anarchist element. Anarchists also played a substantial role in the revolutionary movements in Russia in 1905 and 1917 (Pleck 69), but were suppressed, often ruthlessly, once the Bolsheviks consolidated power. " The Spanish Revolution of 1936-1939 held close anarchy ties between 'Benedict Arnolds,' " says Patrick Brenner in Black Rose. The Spanish Revolution set the stage for the most widely known large-scale manifestation of anarchism, the theory of anarchy itself. Prominent anarchists such as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman participated in a variety of radical causes throughout the early 1900's. Goldman held rallies and protests for women's rights and "free Love." She was imprisoned several times and had sex to raise money for protests. Suffragettes in the 1920's had a chant that stated: "Emma said it 1910, now we're gonna say it again!" (Brenner) There was also a strong anarchist current in "many of the social change and alternative lifestyle movements of the 1960's," reports David Farber in Chicago '68. "This includes parts of the feminist movement, the gay liberation movement and the anti-war and free speech movements. Even today, anarchism is flourishing."
As well as thriving throughout time, anarchy does promote the most freedom for all aspects of life. To better understand other choices of political philosophy, it is helpful to examine all major points of view. Communism, libertarianism, liberalism and nihilism are often confused with anarchy. But these political philosophies are predominantly too structured for the typical anarchist's viewpoints (Heretics' Hall 4 April 1997). Many anarchists value communalism and collectivism, whereas anarchists reject the totalitarianism of the existing communist states. Libertarians are anti-state but are not opposed to domination and hierarchy in all its forms as
anarchy is. The idea of leftism is a prominent issue taken up in the 1990's; liberals traditionally associate themselves with the right wing. Anarchism is free of these boundaries and is not constrained enough to hold a place within typical "democratic" statutes. Nihilists often call themselves anarchists, but anarchism does not promote random violence like nihilism. There are also many different types of anarchists, allowing for many choices as to what type of peaceful protests an anarchist would like to choose (abortion rallies, war protests, political strikes, et cetera).
Finally, anarchy is among the most "generation-conscious" of political philosophies. Preparing for the 21st Century, anarchists are looking forward to the safety of descendants and ancestors alike. Anarchist ideals such as rebellion and revolution are often espoused by youth within the punk, rave, radical, and typical black dress of high school student cultures throughout the world. These young people attempt to escape the injustice and alienation of life in the prevailing consumer society (drugs are good, hemp necklaces, preppies, upper class, cell phones, etc.) by forming communities of resistance. Some examples of resistance communities are collective living, squatting (inhabiting abandoned buildings), and info shops (literally, shops containing information on thousands of political topics of debate; offers jobs, commune availability, and varieties of music-an anarchist's version of a yuppie's coffeehouse). The creation of one-time 'zines such as the underground newspaper run by Carmel students and Spunk Press on the Internet links many "off-the-scene," or non-public anarchists, to contribute to the revolution effort. Anarchists are involved with a wide array of Internet web sites and message boards The Internet is often labeled as "anarchy in action" (Farber 321). Electronic
communications provide a way to transcend national borders and may minimize the importance of cultural barriers such as race and gender as well.
In summary, anarchy is a diverse, tightly woven philosophy that has been adopted in one form or another throughout the past two hundred years by a wide range of individuals and groups, many of whom do not realize or do not associate the individual's ties with anarchy. These people, however, search for the most freedom offered by world affairs and find it in anarchy. Anarchy can have relevance to all facets of one's existence, including political, pragmatic, and personal values. In emphasizing freedom, self-determination, personal responsibility, direct action, and the creation of the voluntary, cooperative alternatives, anarchism has the vision and the flexibility to provide a viable way to transform one's own life while working for the radical and lasting social change that will transform the world. If the idea of anarchy, which is anarchism, was put into effect, poverty, war, disease, homelessness and lack of education could be abolished forever.
Pleck, Elizabeth H. "Emma Goldman, Feminist." The Reader's Companion to American History. Edition 1991: 453
Farber, David. Chicago '68. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1988
Roediger, Dave & Rosemont, Franklin. Haymarket Scrapbook.
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1986
Speech given in Heretics' Hall, name withheld, 4 April 1997
Brenner, Patrick. Black Rose: A Tribute to Emma Goldman. Chicago: Mother Earth Publishing, 1998
American Heritage Dictionary. New York: Random House 1981