Anarchism and Its Aspirations

Milstein, Cindy 2010. Anarchism and Its Aspirations. AK Press

There are many different though often complementary ways of looking at anarchism, but in a nutshell, it can be defined as the striving toward a "free society of free individuals". This phrase is deceptively simple. Bound within it is both an implicit multidimensional critique and an expansive, if fragile, reconstructive vision.
To deepen this definition, a further shorthand depiction of anarchism is helpful: the ubiquitour "circle A" image. The A is a placeholder for the ancient Greek word anarkhia - combining the root an(a), "without," and arkh(os), "ruler, authority" - meaning the absence of authority. More contemporarenously and accurately, it stands for the absence of both domination (mastery or control over other) and hierarchy (ranked power relations of dominance and subordination). The circle would be considered an O, a placeholder for "order" or, better yet, "organization," drawing on Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's seminal definition in What Is Property? (1840): "as man [sic] seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy." The circle A symbolizes anarchism as a dual project: the abolition of domination and hierarchical forms of social organization, or power-over social relations, and their replacement with horizontal versions, or power-together and in common - again, a free society of free individuals. (Milstein 2010: 12-13)
"circle A" on A-ringi allikas
Like all socialists, anarchists concentrated on the economy, specifically capitalism, and saw the laboring classes in the factories and fields, as well as artisans, as the main agents of revolution. They also felt that many socialists were to the "right" or nonlibertarian side of anarchism, soft on their critique of the state, to say the least. These early anarchists, like all anarchists after them, saw the state as equally complicit in structuring social domination; the state complemented and worked with capitalism, but was its own distinct entity. Like capitalism, the state will not "negotiate" with any other sociopolitical system. It attempts to take up more and more governance space. It is neither neutral nor can it be "checked and balanced." The state has its own logic of command and control, of monopolizing political power. (Milstein 2010: 22-23)
võimusuhete struktureerimine
Anarchist principles affirmed humanity's potential to meet everyone's needs and desires, via forms of nonherarchical cooperative and collective arrangements. As we'll see below, adding the prefix "self-" to words that other socialists generally fail to interrogate embodies the grounding for ethical project of creating fully articulated social selves, who strive with others for a society of, for, and by everyone. The early anarchists thus began our ongoing efforts to bring forth self-determination and self-organization, self-management and self-governance, as the basis for a new society. (Milstein 2010: 26-26)
autkommunikatsioon kui anarhistlik organiseerimisviis
Forms of Self-Organization
Here's where we put the icing on the cake: prefigurative forms of self-organization, in all their innovative variety. Fortunately, though, everyone gets to eat the cake. Anarchism's reconstructive visions practice how to reorganize soviety. They put direct action into, well, action.
Direct action takes two forms. Its "positive" or proactive form is the power to create. People do things now the way that they want to see them done, increasingly, in the future, without representative and vertical forms of power. They ignore the "higher" powers, and flex their own collective muscles to make and implement decisions over their lives. The "negative" or reactive form of direct action, the power to resists, uses direct means to challenge the bad stuff - for example, a general strike to stop a war. Both types of direct action are useful, of course. They also go hand in hand. Students, faculty, and support staff at a university, for instance, can occupy an administration building to protest budget cuts and at the same time utilize directly democratic processes to self-determine their course of action (which may then embolden the occupiers to want an altogether different form of education). (Milstein 2010: 70)
produktiivne võim otsese tegevuse mõttes
If freedom is the social aim, power must be held horizontally. We must all be both rulers and ruled simultaneously, or a system of rulers and subjects is the only alternative. We must all hold power equally in our hands if freedom is to coexist with power. Freedom, in other words, can only be maintained through a sharing of political power, and this sharing happens through political institutions. Rather than being made a monopoly, power should be distributed to us all, thereby allowing all our varied "powers" (of reason, persuasion, decision making, and so on) to blossom. This is the power to create rather than dominate. (Milstein 2010: 106)
How can everyone come together to make decisions that affect society as a whole in participatory, mutualistic, and ethical ways? In other words, how can each and every one of us - not just a counterculture or a protest movement - really transform and ultimately control our lives and that of our communities?
This is, in essence, a question of power - who has it, how it is used, and to what ends. To varying degrees, we all know the answer in relation to current institutions and systems. We can generally exlain what we are against. That is exactly why we are protesting, whether it is agianst capitalism or climate change, summits or war. What we have largely failed to articulate, however, is any sort of response in relation to liberatory institutions and systems. We often can't express, especially in any coherent and utopian manner, what we are for. Even as we prefigure a way of making power horizontal, equitable, and hence, hopefully an essential part of a free society, we ignore the reconstructive vision that a directly democratic process holds up right in front of our noses. (Milstein 2010: 112)


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