Some Common Arguments Against Anarchy*

We are often asked how an anarchist society would deal with, for instance, murderers. Who would stop them without the police?

Most murders are crimes of passion and therefore unpreventable by police or anyone else. Hopefully, however, in a saner, less frustrating society such `crimes' would be less common.

Our rulers claim to be protecting us from each other. Actually they are more interested in protecting themselves and `their' property from us.

If we, as members of a local community, owned and shared all resources it would become absurd to steal. An important motive for crime would be abolished.

These local communities would need to develop some means of dealing with individuals who harmed others. Instead of a few thousand professional police there would be 51 million in the `United Kingdom' alone. Ultimately, our only protection is each other.

Prisons fail to improve or reform anyone. Local people aware of each others' circumstances would be able to apply more suitable solutions, in keeping with the needs of the victim and the offender. The present penal system, on the other hand, creates criminal behaviour. Long term prisoners are often rendered incapable of surviving outside an institution that makes all their decisions for them. How is locking people up with others of an anti-social turn of mind (the worst of whom are the screws) supposed to develop responsibility and reasonable behaviour? Of course it does just the opposite. The majority of prisoners re-offend.

Another question anarchists have had thrown at them for years is: "But who would do all the dirty and unpleasant jobs?". We imagine each community would devise its own rota system. What is so impossible about that?

Then there's the question: "But what about those who refuse to work?". Well, social pressure can be applied. People could, for example, be `sent to Coventry', i.e. ignored. In drastic cases they could be expelled from the community.

But people need to work. People have a definite need for creative activity. Notice how many people spend their time working on cars or motor bikes, in gardening, making clothes, creating music. These are all creative activities that can be enjoyable. They are usually thought of as hobbies rather than work, since we're brought up to think of work as a torment to be endured.

In this society of course, work is a torment. Naturally, we hate it. This does not mean that we are naturally lazy, it means that we resent being treated like machines, compelled to do mostly meaningless work for someone else's benefit. Work does not have to be like that and if it were controlled by the people who had to do it, it certainly would not be.

Of course some jobs just have to be done, and there are few methods in sight of making collecting rubbish a fun occupation. Everybody would have to take a share and everybody would have to see to it that nobody got away with shirking their responsibilities.

A further point worth making is that unemployment is only a problem created by capitalism. In a sensible world there would be no unemployment. Everyone would have a shorter working week, because they would only produce things that were needed. If we were to get rid of the parasitic ruling class, we would be free of most of the economic pressure to work.

If you still need to be convinced that an anarchist society could solve the problem of people failing to meet their responsibilities, then imagine yourself being compelled to face a meeting of the whole community you live in and being publicly discussed as a problem. Ugh!

Yet another common objection is: "Well, perhaps it would work on a peasant village scale, but how can you run a complex industrial society without the authority of managers?". Well, in the first place, we believe that society needs to be broken down to smaller-scale units as much as possible, so as to make them comprehensible to small groups of ordinary people. It is a noticeable fact of organisation, as well as a basic principle of anarchist theory, that small groups of people can work efficiently together, and co-ordinate with other such groups; whereas large formless groups are gullible and easily dominated. Expanding this point it is interesting to note that recently the famous `economies of scale' that justify steel works, for example, covering many square miles, have been increasingly called into question. Beyond a certain point factories, farms, administrative systems and so on, actually get much less efficient as they get larger.

As much as is reasonably possible should be produced and consumed locally. Some facilities, however, would have to be dealt with on a regional or even larger scale. There is no insoluble problem about this, in fact solutions were found by the Spanish working class in the thirties. The Barcelona Bus Company doubled services, made generous contributions to the City Entertainments Collective and produced gulls for the front in the bus workshops. All this was achieved with a smaller workforce, as many had left to fight the fascists. This amazing increase in efficiency, despite the war and serious shortages of essential supplies, is not surprising on reflection after all, who can best run a bus company? Obviously bus workers.

All the Barcelona workers were organised into syndicates - groups of workers in the same enterprise, sub-divided into work groups. Each group made its own day-to-day decisions and appointed a delegate to represent their views on wider issues concerning the whole factory, or even the whole region. Each of the delegates was instructed in what to say by their workmates and the task of being a delegate was frequently rotated. Delegates could be changed at short notice if it was felt they were getting out of line (the principle of recallability). These show the basic anarchist principles of free federation in practice. By adding more levels of delegation it is possible to cope with organising activity on any scale, without anyone giving up their freedom to work as they choose. This idea of federalism is illustrated again in a later section called `Local action and organisation'.

Let's move on to another objection "Wouldn't a society without a State have no defence from attack by foreign states?".

Well, it must be said that having a State hasn't prevented us from being taken over by the US Empire. In fact `our own' armed forces are used against us as an army of occupation. The State does not defend us. It uses us as cannon fodder to defend our rulers, who, if the truth be untangled, are our real enemies.

Returning to the question, a classic anarchist answer is to arm the people. Anarchist militias in Spain very nearly won the civil war despite shortages of weapons, treachery by the Communists and intervention by Germany and Italy. Where they made their mistake was in allowing themselves to be integrated into an army run by statists. An armed population would be difficult to subdue.

But yes, we could be destroyed. We believe that the real nuclear threat is from `our side'. The American rulers would probably exterminate us all rather than willingly allow us our freedom.

Against the threat of destruction our best defence is the revolutionary movement in other countries. Put another way, our best defence against the Russian nuclear bomb is the current movement of the Polish workers. This may well spread to the rest of the Soviet Empire. Conversely their best hope of not being vapourised is that we might succeed in abolishing `our' bomb. (CND has not yet realised that banning the megadeath weapons means banning the State!)

It is instructive how the Russian revolution was saved from wholesale British intervention by a series of mutinies and `blackings' by British workers.

True security would be guaranteed if we could develop our international contacts to the point where we can be sure that the workers in each `enemy' country will not allow their rulers to attack us.

The last few pages have been a very brief introduction to the way anarchists think. There are plenty more ideas and details to be found in various books on the subject. But basically you understand anarchism by living it, becoming involved with other anarchists and working on projects, so this is the theme around which the majority of this little book is written anarchist actions.

*First printed and published by: The Anarchist Media Group, Cardiff (UK)