At the beginning of each issue of The Transmetropolitan Review we have provided a brief explanation of what anarchism is. Too long have our detractors, infiltrators, the media, the police, and rich kids have been the ones explaining what anarchism is to the public. In each issue, we have aimed to keep our definitions simple, to combine the words of anarchists throughout time and synthesize their thoughts into something short and easy to understand. This is an unending effort, and anarchist pedagogy is notoriously slow. But out goal remains to spread anarchism, and so we present you with the first three definitions of anarchism, originally released in the fall-winter of 2015-2016 in the Seattle region. Around 700 issues of each paper were printed, and each issue has received around 1000 views on this website. We encourage other anarchists to engage in similar projects in their respective regions. At this moment of electoral narcosis and confusion, we must remind people of the beautiful idea and what it can offer to this bruised and battered world.
We will tell it to you in plain words, through the voices of anarchists written or spoken throughout time. Anarchism is not a new idea. It is very old. By definition, an anarchist is a person who does not wish to be oppressed nor wish to be an oppress, a person who wishes the greatest well-being, freedom, and knowledge for all human beings.
A person who is satisfied to live among slaves and draw profit from the labor of slaves is not and cannot be an anarchist. To be an anarchist it is not enough to recognize that anarchism is a beautiful idea–in theory even capitalists and police might agree with it–but one must want to struggle to achieve anarchism, or at least to approximate it, by reducing the power of capitalism over our lives and the lives of all others. Until all are free, none are free.
The aspiration towards total freedom, if not tempered by a love for life and by the desire that all should enjoy equal freedom, may well create rebels who soon become exploiters and tyrants, but never anarchists. One can be a willing slave for a variety of reasons, just as one can be a tyrant if not met with adequate resistance.
Government is the negation of freedom and it is not possible to be free without being rid of it. The freedom to oppress, to tax, to exploit, to evict, and to kill is the denial of freedom and hence no freedom at all. The fact that our enemies make hypocritical use of the word freedom is not enough to make us deny the principle of freedom in our own lives.
The slave is always in a position of legitimate self defense. Their violence against the oppressor, the capitalist, or the tyrant is always justifiable. This conflict may be open or latent, but it always exists.
When the people meekly submit to the law, or their protests are feeble and confined to words, the government ignores the people. When the protests are lively, insistent, threatening, the government gives way or resorts to repression. But one always come back to insurrection. For if the government does not give way and resorts to repression, the people will rebel again and again. If the government does give way, then the people gain confidence in themselves and make greater and greater demands until the incompatibility between freedom and authority become clear. In either case, insurrection is the result. Whether we win or not depends on how great the desire for freedom is. If it shared by enough people, millions or billions, we can win.
But what does it mean to win? To create an anarchist world? We must say there can be no “anarchist world.” There can only be anarchy. It is the natural state of most humans and for all the natural world. Most humans tend to get along, share when able, and respect each others differences. Bu there is a minority of humans who have not only enslaved most other humans, they have destroyed massive amounts of life and are threatening to destroy the planet. To create anarchy is to destroy the power of this small minority and let tens of thousands of small words blossom in its place. We have suffered under one God, one King, and one Capitalism for far too long. It is time for the many to rule the world once again, as they should. And when that world arrives we will still be anarchists among the many, trying our best to live anarchism.
To destroy a persons ability to live off the land is to take nearly all of their freedom away. They can exercise their freedom to steal, and they will be justified in doing so, but without land the only other option is to submit to the reign of capitalism and exchange ones life for a dollar. They have poisoned the land, forced us to work for them, and deserve to be overthrown immediately. We must all live on this planet, this same earth we all were born on. To destroy another persons land is to destroy them. To destroy the planet is to destroy everything it has ever created. We must all organize to stop this destruction now.
We will have more plain words in the future. For now, just know that the stakes are life or death. Without victory, we face only extinction. History vindicates anarchism thrice over. The time of our revolution is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. LONG LIVE ANARCHY!
There are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable. New ideas germinate everywhere, seeking to force their way into the light, to find an application in life; everywhere they are opposed by the inertia of those whose interest it is to maintain the old order; they suffocate in the stifling atmosphere of prejudice and traditions. Political, economic, and social institutions are crumbling; the social structure, having become uninhabitable, is hindering, even preventing the development of the seeds which are being propagated within its damaged walls and being brought forth around them.
The need for a new life becomes apparent. The code of established morality, that which governs the greater number of people in their daily life, no longer seems sufficient. What formerly seemed just is now felt to be a crying injustice. The morality of yesterday is today recognized as revolting immorality. The conflict between new ideas and old traditions flames up in every class of society, in every possible environment, in the very bosom of the family.
Daily, the popular conscience rises up against the scandals which breed amidst the privileged and the leisured, against the crimes committed in the name of the law of the stronger, or in order to maintain these privileges. Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization of their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted; they perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath, and bring to humankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial, and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration.
In periods of frenzied haste toward wealth, of feverish speculation and of crisis, of the sudden downfall of great industries and the ephemeral expansion of other branches of production, of scandalous fortunes amassed in a few years and dissipated as quickly, it becomes evident that the economic institutions which control production and exchange are far from giving to society the prosperity which they are supposed to guarantee; they produce precisely the opposite result. Instead of order they bring forth chaos; instead of prosperity, poverty and insecurity; instead of reconciled interests, war; a perpetual war of the exploiter against the worker, of exploiters and of workers among themselves.
Human society is seen to be splitting more and more into two hostile camps, and at the same time to be subdividing into thousands of small groups waging merciless war against each other. Weary of these wars, weary of the miseries which they cause, society rushes to seek a new organization; it clamors loudly for a complete remodeling of the system of property ownership, of production, of exchange and all economic relations which spring from it.
The machinery of government, entrusted with the maintenance of the existing order, continues to function, but at every turn of its deteriorated gears it slips and stops. Its working becomes more and more difficult, and the dissatisfaction caused by its defects grows continuously. Every day gives rise to a new demand. Attacked from all sides they defend themselves awkwardly, they evade, they commit blunder upon blunder, and they soon succeed in cutting the last rope of salvation; they drown the prestige of the government in ridicule, caused by their own incapacity. Such periods demand revolution. It becomes a social necessity; the situation itself is revolutionary.
We do not fight to put ourselves in the place of the exploiters and oppressors of today, and do not struggle for the triumph of an abstraction. We want good fortune for individuals, for everyone, without exception. We desire that each human being be able to develop themselves and live as happily as possible. Everything that seeks to destroy economic and political oppression, all that serves to raise the moral and intellectual level of human beings, all that provokes hatred against oppression and love between people, brings us closer to our aim and as a consequence is good. We desire the triumph of liberty and love. But do we renounce for that the use of violent means? Not in the least. Our means are those that circumstances allow us and impose on us. Certainly we don’t want to harm a hair on anyone’s head; we would like to dry all the tears and not to make any more be shed. But we must struggle in the world such as it is, or else remain sterile dreamers.
If you feel you are an anarchist, it is easy to join the struggle. Find your friends and firmly decide to leave this economy of debt and misery. Form an ANARCHIST FEDERATION. Collectively save your money and purchase land, housing, whatever can help you work less, toil less, and have more time to live freely and help others. If you want to forgo money entirely, simply occupy the land or the housing you want and refuse to leave. An anarchist federation shares with itself and grows member by member, eventually hooking up with the other federations until the capitalist economy is gone.
But if you have had enough, if you want to strike at capitalism and the state, form an ANARCHIST DIRECT ACTION GROUP. Find your most trusted friends, people who you know are not cops, people you have known since childhood. Pick a target to destroy or render inoperable, like a bank or corporate office, for example. Make your plans, carry out your action, and be sure not to harm anyone. With the anarchist federation and the anarchist direct action group,
Organization which is, after all, only the practice of cooperation and solidarity, is a natural and necessary condition of social life. It is an inescapable fact which forces itself on everybody, as much on human society in general as on any group of people who are working towards a common objective. The age long oppression of the masses by a small priveliged group has always been the result of the inability of most workers to agree among themselves to organize with others for production, for enjoyment, and for the possible needs of defence against whoever might wish to exploit and oppress them. Anarchism exists to remedy this state of of affairs, to trigger this organization.
When a community has needs and its members do not know how to organize spontaneously to provide them, someone comes forward, an authority who satisfies those needs by utilising the services of all and directing them to his liking. If the city streets are unsafe and the people do not know what measures to take, a police force emerges that expects to be supported and paid by the community, as well as imposing itself on them and throwing its weight around. If some item is needed, and the community does not know how to arrange with the distant producers to supply it in exchange for their locally produced goods, the merchant will appear who will profit by wedging himself between the producer and consumer. This is what has happened in our midst; the less organized we have become, the more prone we are to imposed on by a few individuals. And this is understandable…
So much so that organization, far from creating authority, is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each one of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of rulers.
An anarchist organization must, in my opinion, allow for complete autonomy, independence, and therefor full responsibility, to individuals and groups. Free agreement between those who think it useful to come together for cooperative actions. A moral duty to fulfill ones pledges and to take no action which is contrary to any agreements. On such bases one then introduces practical forms and the suitable instruments to give real life to the organization. Thus the groups, the federation of groups, the federations of federations, meetings, assemblies, farms, coops, etc. But this all must be done freely, in such a way as to not restrict the thought and initiative of individual members, but only to give greater scope to the efforts which, in isolation, would be impossible or ineffective.
We would certainly be happy is we could all get along well together and unite all the forces of anarchism in a strong movement; but we do not believe in the solidity of organization which are built up on concessions and assumptions and in which there is no real agreement and sympathy between members. Better disunited than badly united. But we would wish that each individual joined their friends and that there should be no isolated forces, or lost forces.
The fundamental error of the reformists is that of dreaming of solidarity, a sincere collaboration, between masters and servants, between proprietors anf workers. Those who envisage a society of well stuffed pigs which waddle contentedly under the thumb of a small number of swineherd; who do not take into account the need for freedom and human dignity; who believe in a God or a Market that orders the poor to be submissive and the rich to be good and charitable–are gravely mistaken. A social peace based on abundance for all will remain a dream so long as society is divided into antagonistic classes, that is the employers and the employees.
The antagonism is spiritual rather than material. There will never be a sincere understanding between bosses and workers because the bosses above all want to remain bosses and secure always more power at the expense of the workers and the land, as well as by competition with other bosses, whereas the workers have had their fill of bosses and don’t want more!
We are reformers today in so far as we seek to create the most favourable conditions and as large a body of enlightened militants so that a insurrection by the people would be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. But we will never recognize the institutions. We will take or win all possible reforms with the same spirit that one tears occupied territory from the enemy’s grasp in order to go on advancing, and we will always remain enemies of every government, whether it be that of the Democrats today, or the Republican or Socialist governments of tomorrow.
Since no one can do everything in this world, one must choose one’s own line of conduct. The rest follows.