The core tenant of anarchism is the abolishment of all hierarchies, mainly manifested by the desire to abolish the state. The greatest writers of anarchism repeatedly made the point that the state must be removed if there is to be any freedom for the people. The idea is generally palatable, if but misguided in many ways. Authority itself is seen as a corrupting influence that inherently destroys the “natural” state of man. In compliment with this is the idea of self-governance coupled with the idea of voluntary institutions. Some anarchists would disagree, and instead advocate institutions based on non-hierarchy or free associations. Regardless of individual variations of the ideology, the primary goal right now is the abolishment of the state.
But do they really do this?
The history of anarchism has demonstrated a definite desire to abolish the state, except when they create a surrogate. The tradition of many has certainly been dedicated to abolishing these institutions they oppose. But what about now? Can we say that the modern anarchist is really interested in abolishing the state? I’d argue that they’ve created a double standard.
There’s a trend in anarchism that has been proceeding for quite some time. For the sake of clarity, I am referring to modern day first world anarchists. Other anarchists around the world seem to be a bit different in this regard. So for the purposes of criticism, I’m specifically criticizing the actions of first world anarchists in the imperialist countries.
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Whenever the US imperialist war machine revs its engines screaming for fresh territory to conquer, anarchists almost exclusively find themselves on the side of the imperialists. Every justification that is given to attack some country or another ends up being adopted by anarchists. In other instances, they outright oppose the right of oppressed countries to defend themselves.
Example 1. Since the US began its campaign against the government of Syria, anarchists have supported US intervention on the basis that the Syrian government is a government, so, therefore, they should be destroyed. In other cases, they take on blatant lies or nitpick imperfections as a justification for supporting the destruction of the Assad government. If pressed for an opinion, they’ll tell you they’re anti-imperialist, but they publicly support imperialism for “their own different reasons”.
To call for the Assad government to be destroyed is to support the imperialist conquest. There can be no doubt about this, it is an outright wrong position to take. Anarchists attempt to deflect criticism or justify their blatant support for imperialism by saying that they support the Kurds instead.
This claim is nothing short of garbage. Even if we were to assume the Kurdish groups to be altruistic and not the opportunistic vultures they are, they’d still be supporting the destruction of the country through a war led by imperialism for the benefit of US capital. Is it right to hand over the whole of the country and its resources to the imperialist powers simply because you’re “anti-state”? This is particularly nonsensical for anarchists when we consider that the US is going to install a puppet government anyway.
Support for the Kurdish groups is astounding in its hypocrisy. In truth, the Kurdish groups are simply tools of imperialism themselves. It is a fact that the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) is being used to occupy oil fields, rivers, and particularly fertile agricultural land in order to separate it from the rightful Syrian government, and the Syrian people – and placing them under the control of a US proxy. Not only have they separated the Syrian people from their own land, they have handed these resources over to the US government.
They may claim they are anti-state all they wish, their actions show their true intentions.
Example 2. Anarchists are notorious for mindlessly believing all manner of lies about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK a.k.a. North Korea). No matter how utterly outrageous or nonsensical the claim is, they line up right behind the imperialist propaganda effort without even a moment to question the claims. They believe them because they don’t like states. They so adamantly believe falsehoods given to them by another state. It seems their distrust of the state is disregarded for the purpose of attacking another state. If they were truly anti-authoritarian, perhaps they would be much more skeptical of information presented to them by such an authority. Instead, they prefer their “tankie” slur to label anyone on the Left who dares question this imperialist narrative.
The DPRK’s main goal at this moment is the development of a nuclear deterrent against invasion by the US. Decades have been spent on-and-off developing various forms of nuclear technology. The idea is to present the reality of invading the country as having a terrible price to pay in nuclear weaponry. If the DPRK is to be attacked by the US, then the nuclear fire will rain down upon the attackers making the whole endeavour worthless. This is a clear principle of self-defence, a means by which to deter invasion. The right to self-defence is principal that few people in the world could oppose. Except for anarchists in this case.
Anarchists (along with other opportunists like Trotskyists) openly oppose the DPRK having nuclear arms. They see the DPRK having such weaponry as a “danger” to the world. They believe that such weapons in hands of an oppressed country are a bad thing. To justify this position, they claim that they want a nuclear weapon free world. While this is a noble goal, the reality is that we live a world where the imperialist powers have nuclear arms themselves. To demand the DPRK to relinquish theirs is to essentially call for them to disarm themselves. As long as a threat against you exists, you must have a means to defend yourself from it.
The anarchists (and others) are blatantly opposing the DPRK of having a right to defend themselves. Why? Because they know such weapons might be used against the US itself, where they live – they may die from them. What’s happening here is the anarchists are siding with their own government over the right of the DPRK to defend itself from imperialist aggression. While they claim to oppose all states, they clearly side with their own when it benefits them. They are clearly siding with the imperialist power over the oppressed country’s right to maintain a means of self-defence. They may claim they are anti-state all they wish, their actions show their true intentions.
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When it comes to fighting states the anarchists display a similar double standard. While their ideology calls upon them to abolish all states, their actual actions can be quite questionable. In truth, we see anarchists generally defending the state in the US, while supporting the destruction of it in the oppressed countries. Once again we’ll see the ideological support for the state and imperialism that exists within anarchist circles.
Previously we saw how the anarchists support the destruction of the states in the oppressed countries when the imperialist war machine wants to destroy them. They accuse anyone who wants to prevent the wars from happening as being “statists” who inherently oppose freedom. They accuse the anti-imperialists as being in support of “dictatorships” and the oppressive states that are “guilty” of all manner of inhumanities, often imagined.
So why aren’t they so enthusiastic about abolishing the state in their own countries? Whenever there is some kind of debate around social programs, the anarchists always support it. When the Democrats speak of, say, an affordable housing program, they’re in support of it. They argue that these benefits for working class people should be given out. While that’s certainly a positive thing, why aren’t they fighting the US government? When it’s an oppressed country they call for it to be destroyed (often with US bombs), but when it’s their own country they support reforms that assist the working class. Aren’t they supposed to be opposing the state? Why would they go around supporting it by agreeing to these reforms, which are specifically designed to reduce action against the state, to begin with? They support the reforms because they benefit them.
Why aren’t there mass attacks against the US government? They so happily cheer on the US when it bombs a country. In fact, they don’t take any anti-state violent action at all. At best they will attack alt-right or other white supremacist rallies. While this is certainly the right thing to do, it shouldn’t be all they do. They’re supposed to be fighting the state, something they don’t do. Instead, they prefer to create hipster coffee shop collectives or squat in an abandoned building. (One that they burn down themselves accidentally because fire codes are authoritarian.)
Other times they smash random businesses in a display of anger towards capitalism and the state. These actions, rare as they may be, are often fruitless. The community usually ends up denouncing the anarchists and supporting the capitalist enterprises that were harmed. In a recent example, the anarchist federation of Ontario attacked several businesses in downtown Hamilton. The outcry from the public was wholly in support of the businesses. (Yes the public really did support those businesses harmed, this is not something the media just claimed.) Their actions had the opposite effect of what they intended.
So when do they actually attack the state? The best example of anarchists doing the real fighting is joining the YPG in Syria. While not too many have volunteered for the YPG and a significant number have. (I won’t bother rehashing how the YPG actually works for US capital here.) These volunteers fight the Syrian government of Assad, yet they do so with the backing of the US GOVERNMENT. So the only time the first world anarchists have the courage to fight a government is when they can hide behind a government!
So why is it they have the courage to fight the Syrian government, but not their own government in the US? Becuase a state will support them doing it. So we can clearly see they’ll fight an oppressed country’s state, but not their own oppressor state. This is a very clear double standard. They’ll only fight when they have protection. Another state to hide behind. They may claim they are anti-state all they wish, their actions show their true intentions.
So what should we think of these first world anarchists? When we step back and look at their actions we see that they are very clearly on the side of US imperialism. Despite all their bluster about being in opposition to all governments, they very clearly have their favourites – directly (YPG volunteering, opposing DPRK self-defence) or indirectly supporting (social programs). Can we really say that anarchism is anti-state? At the very least we can say that it is no longer. Much of this ties in with third worldist theory which criticizes the first worldist line of Marxists. They too suffer from the same illness, global privilege and sharing in the spoils of imperialism. But it is the anarchists who are the most opportunistic as many Marxists are still anti-imperialist.
This opportunism should be seen for what it is: bourgeois individualism. They oppose state when it doesn’t serve their interests, but support it when it does.
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The following is a few pre-emptive answers to a few attacks that will no doubt be thrown at this work.
- The YPG isn’t backed by the US anymore.
Non-sequitur. Just because the official support for the YPG has concluded doesn’t mean the YPG never sided with the US. They still assisted balkanizing the country and allowed the US to build bases on the captured territory. Just because something is no longer happening doesn’t mean it never happened.
- What about the Greek anarchists who are fighting?
The Greek anarchists are doing real fighting, I wasn’t referring to them. I was referring to the anarchists in the imperialist countries. Greece is in the second world, the continuum between first and third. The example by the Greek anarchists should be followed by anarchists in the imperialist countries.
- What about Marxists? They’re not doing any anti-state violence either!
No, they’re not, this would be the criticism of third worldists in general. The point of this work was to show the selective opposition to the state that first world (mainly American) anarchists display. The difference is that Marxists are anti-imperialist, except for a few Maoist exceptions which have heavily drifted into an anarchist-type stance.
- You say all this, but what are you doing?
Trying to point out a problem that exists, and to investigate the reactionary ideology of anarchism. I’m also trying to promote the correct political line.