Chaos - Thinking about anarchism


"Freedom is chaos". "Anarchy is chaos". The first statement will be derided as authoritarian and elitist. It sounds like the ranting of some tinpot dictator. The second is often be seen as a plain statement of fact . Yet freedom and anarchism are the same thing. Whether we call it freedom or anarchism, it is about people being able to run their own lives, enjoy real liberty and have a say in the decisions that will effect them.

The media constantly tell us that anarchy is just another word for disorder and disorganisation. Whether it be the Star or the 'educated' Irish Times, the same misuse of the word occurs with monotonous regularity. Not all of this can be put down to lazy and careless journalism. Why do they use anarchy as a handy catch-all term for crime, thuggery and disorganisation? Many of them know this is not true, why else do they simultaneously warn that the anti-capitalist movement is organised by anarchists.

Far from being the purveyors of a recipe for chaos, the very opposite is the case. Anarchists seek to organise society in better way, based on direct democracy and satisfying peoples needs. To take just two examples: it was the anarchist movement which played a central role in building trade unions in many countries as far apart as France and Argentina, Chile and Korea. In Ireland the successful campaign which organised thousands of householders and defeated the water charges had an anarchist as its secretary, as does the current Dublin City movement against the bin tax.

Do anarchists not organise themselves? Do they not build organisations, publish newspapers, establish international networks and federations?

Of course they do, and none of it is secret. What lies behind all the slander is not usually a calculated and deliberate lie intended to dissuade the rest of us from finding out more about anarchism. Our opponents have convinced themselves that society can not function without a strong governing group (and they almost invariably think they should be in it).

They hold the idea that most people are too stupid for a free society to work, too stupid to be capable of getting together and running society. After all, anarchism would mean the end of a system where a tiny minority of bosses and politicians rule over the rest of us and organise society in the interest of their class.

Our bosses and rulers (and all the wanna-be bosses and rulers) try to justify this by implying that only a special few are imaginative and sensible enough to make the really big decisions, and that a small minority should govern the rest of us. We have been brought up to see this as the 'natural' way of things.

In the middle ages the justification was supplied by the church in the guise of the "divine right of kings". Then with the overthrow of feudalism and the development of modern capitalism the line changed to one which said our rulers were there because they were best suited to running things. You can choose which politicians sit in the Assembly and Dail, but you aren't allowed to choose not to delegate so much power to such a small group of people.

And you certainly aren't allowed to vote out your boss, let alone vote to have no bosses at all. It is supposed to be unthinkable, not a rational thought. But then, we are not supposed to think of the current system as chaos.

One might think it a good description when farmers in one part of the world are paid not to grow food, while in another part people starve? Is it not chaotic when money can be found to buy Farmleigh House so the government has somewhere to party, while there is not enough cash to house the homeless?

Anarchists are organising against capitalism today, so that tomorrow we can help organise a society of freedom, socialism and democracy.

Alan MacSimóin


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This edition is No68 published in Jan 2002

Irish anarchist paper