Anarchism works

Published on 2024-02-27

There are not a lot of "anarchists" in my life. I have found myself surrounded by progressives, and even a few socialists, but in a room of people I spend my life with I am, quite often, the only self-proclaimed anarchist. People who get the vibe that the prison industrial complex is a Bad Thing, but when pressed on the subject, would probably ask questions like "what about the really bad people though?"

When it's not treated as objectively evil, anarchism is usually thought of as a sort of ideal. Interesting, though not realistic in practice. This is, for what it's worth, in spite of the fact that the kind of social systems anarchists usually describe have existed successfully for all known history, and that they seem rare today in large part due to erasure and persecution. But I do admit an "anarchist society" does feel kind of utopian, in the sense of "cool, but probably not realistic." At least, it's something I often struggle to truly believe in. We can shuffle around what it means for something to be truly "horizontal" but ultimately it does raise a lot of hard-to-answer questions.

I think what's kept me with anarchism is not what it is as a political theory, but rather what it is as a personal ethic.

Anarchism can exist within an authoritarian society. It often does. It often serves as a backbone of social security in a society that's failed to provide it. Mutual aid is anarchism. Helping out your neighbours is anarchism. Forming voluntary associations to defend your and your friends rights and dignities is anarchism. Even if there's a cop to beat you up for giving water to your unhoused neighbours, that doesn't make the social relations you have any less anarchist.

In this sense, I often think of anarchism as a continuous project to protect and advance the interests of all people. There may or may not coexist an authoritarian state. Maybe it's a fact of life in a technologically advanced society. Maybe one day it'll be gone. Either way, there will always be anarchism, and it'll always be you and me, if you choose to accept it.

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