What Is Anarchy, Anyway? A Primer

Reading George Orwell’s, “Homage To Catalonia,” I was interested that his description of the Spanish anti-Fascists had three factions: the Communists, the Anarchists and the militia (aka POUM). POUM fought the actual war while the Anarchists managed the infrastructure and the Communist arranged foreign aid, so far as I can figure from his account. The Communists eventually decided to stop sharing power, warred against the Anarchists and them outlawed the POUM even while the latter was on the front lines doing the fighting.

Up until reading that account, I had always assumed that Communists and Anarchists were basically the same people. Then I saw Antifa go after ranking Democrats such as Portland Mayor Jacob Frey, an action which confirmed the two had differing goals. Excellent! Noticing such parallels is exactly why I was looking at the Spanish Civil War in the first place.

Then my next book arrived in the mail: Andy Ngo’s “Unmasked”. I’m still going through it but he clued me in to the Anarchist publishing organization CrimethInc. I fired up my VPN though my neighbor’s Wi-Fi and went looking for a primer on what Anarchy is all about.

Fighting for Our Lives: An Anarchist Primer

By Anonymous

Fifteen years ago, we published the following text introducing anarchism to the general public as a total way of being, at once adventurous and accessible. We offered the paper free in any quantity, raising tens of thousands of dollars for printing and even offering to cover the postage to mail copies to anyone who could not afford them. In the first two weeks, we sent out 90,000 copies. It appeared just in time for the “People’s Strike” mobilization against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC…

A total coincidence, no doubt. This would be the “October Rebellion” of October 2007 that, curiously, targeted the Jesuit stronghold of Georgetown at least as much as the finance Elites that were their official target.


h ttp://www.octoberrebellion.org/georgetown.php

So, why Georgetown? Why not go to the Bank and IMF itself on Friday as well as Saturday?

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as puppets of the US government and an international class of rulers and financiers, carry out plans dictated by powerful people, outside of the institutions themselves. In their wake, they leave death and destruction; IMF austerity plans and failed World Bank infrastructural development projects that displace poor people for the continued economic benefit of the Bank and the Fund themselves.

I can’t say they’re wrong here.

They, the World Bank and IMF, are but two actors that, while significant in size, are ultimately irrelevant to the continued existence of capitalism and, more specifically, neoliberalism; the model of capitalism that favors privatization, deregulation and market liberalization. The Bank and Fund must be stopped, but they must be stopped along with all of their equally exploitative counterparts including local real estate developers, finance ministers, bankers and government officials.

The Direct Action Working Group of the October Coalition, based in the Washington DC area, has thus decided that to demonstrate our opposition to the World Bank, the IMF, and neoliberalism, and to do our small part to help strengthen a movement against capitalism, we must go to where the power actually lies.

“Direct Action” is a phrase you see a lot in Anarchist thought. It loosely translates to “you aren’t actually free to live your own life. Here are your marching orders from Central Planning.”

They will wine and dine in some of the most exclusive bars, hotels, and restaurants the world has to offer. They will schmooze with international delegates, roam District streets, and rest in the lap of luxury.

Where will they do this? Georgetown. Georgetown, Washington’s seat of power, is a playground for the rich. Its residents possess enormous wealth at the expense of the poor majority who live so close to them. They live so close, yet a world away, hidden in plain sight.

Georgetown embodies neoliberalism. Georgetown is neoliberalism.

Do they mean capitalism when they say neoliberalism? Always when dealing with atheists, their words tend to exchange meaning for utility. The Jesuits are the Marxists who developed Critical Race Theory, from what I can tell, so textbook neoliberalism doesn’t seem to apply to them. Historically, Anarchy was less actual anti-Fascist and more a paramililitary wing of factions such as the Communists or Democratic Socialists.

End Segue

the pastor at the Presbyterian church that hosted anticapitalist activists in DC preached her Sunday sermon from the primer as she spoke to her congregation about the demonstrations. Over the following decade, Fighting for Our Lives figured in countless escapades and outreach efforts; read this story for an example. In the end, we distributed 650,000 print copies.

That Jezebel bitch!

Fighting for Our Lives has been out of print for several years, as we’ve focused on other projects such as To Change Everything. We’ve now prepared a zine version for our downloads library. From this vantage point, we can appreciate both the text and the project itself as ambitious and exuberant attempts to break with the logic of the existing order and to stake everything on establishing new relations. We’ve learned a lot in the years since then—but we haven’t backed down one millimeter.

Liberals can’t meme. “Jesus is extra cruel because He suffered in the same ways we do!” That’s got to be the least convincing reason to hate Christ ever.

Overture: A True Story
We dropped out of school, got divorced, broke with our families and ourselves and everything we’d ever known.


We quit our jobs, violated our leases, threw our furniture out on the sidewalk, and hit the road.


We went to bed early and lay awake past dawn recounting all the awful things we’d done to others and they to us—and laughing, blessing and absolving each other and this crazy cosmos.


We used stolen calling card numbers to talk our lovers through phone sex from telephone booths in the lobbies of police stations.


We sheltered illegal immigrants, political refugees, fugitives from justice, and adolescent runaways in our modest homes and beds, as they too sheltered us.

Criminals. Skipping ahead,

When we couldn’t overthrow governments, we raised new generations who would taste the sweet adrenaline of barricades and wheatpaste, who would carry on our quixotic quest when we fell or fled before the ruthless onslaught of the servile and craven.

When we could overthrow governments, we did.

I get the sense, already present from past experiences and headlines, that Anarchy is the sort of disease a society contracts when there’s a lot of fatherless young men with no place in it.

It’s true. If your idea of healthy human relations is a dinner with friends at which everyone enjoys everyone else’s company, responsibilities are divided up voluntarily and informally, and no one gives orders or sells anything, then you are an anarchist, plain and simple. The only question that remains is how you can arrange for more of your interactions to resemble that model.

Whenever you act without waiting for instructions or official permission, you are an anarchist. Any time you bypass a ridiculous regulation when no one’s looking, you are an anarchist. If you don’t trust the government, the school system, Hollywood, or the management to know better than you when it comes to things that affect your life, that’s anarchism, too. And you are especially an anarchist when you come up with your own ideas and initiatives and solutions.

That is such a juvenile philosophy that only the immature could possibly believe it. But we should have expected Anarchy to come with little respect for authority.

As you can see, it’s anarchism that keeps things working and life interesting. If we waited for authorities and specialists and technicians to take care of everything, we would not only be in a world of trouble, but dreadfully bored—and boring—to boot. Today we live in that world of (dreadfully boring!) trouble precisely to the extent that we abdicate responsibility and control.

Anarchism is naturally present in every healthy human being. It isn’t necessarily about throwing bombs or wearing black masks, though you may have seen that on television. (Do you believe everything you see on television? That’s not anarchist!) The root of anarchism is the simple impulse to do it yourself: everything else follows from this.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” – Aleister Crowley, Satanist

Does Anarchy Work?

No. Exhibit “A”: CHAZ.


No digression, however. Continuing:

People with very little actual historical background often say of anarchy that it would never work—without realizing that not only has it worked for much of the history of the human race, but it is in fact working right now. For the time being, let’s set aside the Paris Commune, Republican Spain, Woodstock, open-source computer programming, and all the other famed instances of successful revolutionary anarchism. Anarchy is simply cooperative self-determination—it is a part of everyday life, not something that will only happen “after the revolution.” Anarchy works today for circles of friends everywhere—so how can we make more of our economic relations anarchist? Anarchy is in action when people cooperate on a camping trip or to arrange free meals for hungry people—so how can we apply those lessons to our interactions at school, at work, in our neighborhoods?

To consult chaos theory: anarchy is chaos, and chaos is order. Any naturally ordered system—a rainforest, a friendly neighborhood—is a harmony in which balance perpetuates itself through chaos and chance. Systematic disorder, on the other hand—the discipline of the high school classroom, the sterile rows of genetically modified corn defended from weeds and insects—can only be maintained by ever-escalating exertions of force. Some, thinking disorder is simply the absence of any system, confuse it with anarchy. But disorder is the most ruthless system of all: disorder and conflict, unresolved, quickly systematize themselves, stacking up hierarchies according to their own pitiless demands—selfishness, heartlessness, lust for domination. Disorder in its most developed form is capitalism: the war of each against all, rule or be ruled, sell or be sold, from the soil to the sky.

We live in a particularly violent and hierarchical time.

No. The passivity of Normie American is astonishing. He amassed a mountain of firearms with no intention of ever using them because the government he distrusts didn’t tell him to. Neither authority nor necessity can motivate him to be violent even when the mobs rule the streets and he sleeps on a hoard of guns like a dragon.

This state of affairs is maintained by more than guns, more than the vertigo of hierarchy, of kill-or-be-killed reasoning: it is also maintained by the myth of success. Official history presents our past as the history of Great Men, and all other lives as mere effects of their causes; there are only a few subjects of history, they would make us believe—the rest of us are its objects. The implication is that there is only one truly free man in all society: the king (or president, executive, movie star…). Since this is the way it has always been and always will be, the account goes, we should all fight to become him, or at least accept our station beneath him gracefully, grateful for others beneath us to trample when we need reassurance of our own worth.

That is precisely what America is NOT. Yet, the Anarchists want to destroy America.

But even the president isn’t free to go for a walk in the neighborhood of his choosing. Why settle for a fragment of the world, or less? In the absence of force—in the egalitarian beds of true lovers, in the democracy of devoted friendships, in the topless federations of playmates enjoying good parties and neighbors chatting at sewing circles—we are all queens and kings.

That would make us all peers, not “queens and kings”. Somebody has delusions of being respectable.

Whether or not anarchy can “work” outside such sanctuaries, it is becoming clearer and clearer that hierarchy doesn’t.

The questions remains unanswered by the author, can Anarchy work despite all the histories of it being tried?

So how will the anarchist utopia work? That’s a question we’ll never again be duped into disputing over, a red herring if there ever was one! This isn’t a utopian vision, or a program or ideal to serve; it’s simply a way of proceeding, of approaching relationships, of dealing with problems now—for surely we’ll never be entirely through dealing with problems! Being an anarchist doesn’t mean believing anarchy, let alone anarchism, can fix everything—it just means acknowledging it’s up to us to work things out, that no one and nothing else can do this for us: admitting that, like it or not, our lives are in our hands—and in each others’.

So, anarchy doesn’t have a goal. It’s just a path and the destination is unimportant. That path claims to be radical individualism and manifests as mobs looting stores.

The Economics of Anarchy
Anarchist economies are radically different from other economies. Anarchists not only conduct their transactions differently, but trade in an entirely different currency—a currency that is not convertible into the kind of assets for which capitalists compete and communists draft Five Year Plans. Capitalists, socialists, communists exchange products; anarchists interchange assistance, inspiration, loyalty. Capitalist, socialist, communist economies make human interactions into commodities: policing, medical care, education, even sexual relations become services that are bought and sold. Anarchist economies, focusing above all on the needs and desires of the individuals involved, transform products back into social relations: the communal experience of gardening or gathering berries or playing music, the excitement of looting a supermarket or occupying a building. The typical economic interaction in capitalist relations is the sale; in anarchist economics, it is the gift.

There are many reasons why no successful nation-equivalent has ever had a gift economy. None of those reasons have been addressed here. I am reminded of the story of Pinocchio, how the children were freed to be feral, reverted to their natural/animal instincts  and ended up as miserable animals of no humanity at all.

This is a common theme in all of atheism’s flavors, that humans are inherently good and the best thing to be done is freeing us to act upon our natural instincts without consequences. Anybody who thinks that’s a good idea can try wife-hunting in California.

Anarchist economies depend on commons, which are the opposite of private property. Private capital disappears when utilized, as in the case of money spent by day laborers on food—or, when enough of it accrues, it serves to accrue more private capital at others’ expense, as in the case of the corporation that exploits those laborers. Commons, on the other hand, are available in abundance, and the more they are utilized, the more abundant they become: the community garden that produces more food the more people cooperate in it, the squatted building that is better renovated for community usage and better defended from the police the more people commit to it. In friendships, as in lovemaking, as in potluck dinners and dancing, the more one gives, the more everyone gets.

This is just insanity. Willful denial of reality.

But Who Will Take out the Garbage?

[A bus driver in Spain quit his job during his route and walked away. The passengers took turns driving the bus to their destinations. This is supposed to answer the question of who will do incredibly unpleasant jobs for no reason than to save a total stranger the bother.]

Self-Determination Begins at Home
Not to be forced by expectation, doctrine, or necessity to claim one fragment of yourself and disown others. Not to take sides within and against yourself, not to play judge and jury constantly at your own trial. Not to protect pristine ignorance with inaction, but to learn from mistakes and thus grow wise. Not to choose one path in life and follow it to the exclusion of all others, but to throw false unity and consistency to the wind—to give expression to every impulse and yearning in what you deem its proper time, and appreciate what is fertile in turmoil. To do this knowing you are a part of a community that cherishes you unconditionally—and to cherish others in their entirety, as they reflect parts of yourself.

To live without the petty squabbles of pecking order and power structure inside any more than around—that is the anarchist dream of selfhood.

Okay, I can see how Anarchy differs from Communism. The latter wants common ownership of property and the former wants no ownership of property. But both of them reach the same end of up-gunned tyrants stealing everything but the bare minimums of survival. All atheisms trade slavery-in-name for slavery-in-fact.

Liberals still can’t meme. “I refuse to be responsible for my own life!” is not a profound thought.

Direct Action Gets the Goods
A community in which people direct their own activities and look out for each other does not need a prison or factory built in it to “create jobs.” A community of people who share their own channels of communication are not at the mercy of any corporate media version of “truth.”

Where do those iPhones come from? Factories full of jobs.

A community of people who make their own music and art and organize their own social events would never settle for the paralyzing spectacle of reality television, let alone computer dating services and pornography.

Where do those musical instruments and pens come from? Factories full of jobs.

A community of people who know each other’s histories and understand each other’s needs can work through conflicts without any need for interference from uniformed strangers with guns.

I bet those strangers with guns will show up without being needed. Or wanted.

The extent to which we can create these communities is the extent to which we can solve the problems we face today, and no legislation or charity will do this for us.

Again, this is infantilism… and once taken into reality, it is looting and vandalism under the justification that private property is a crime.

Institutions can only be as good as the people who make them work—and they usually aren’t, anyhow. Solutions “from above” have proved ineffective over and over: the red tape of medical programs, the inefficiency of social services, the lies of presidents. If you don’t trust the people, you can be sure you can’t trust the police.

What this section was trying to establish is the principle of Direct Action, that is, the importance of taking orders from your handlers to show up at protests willing to spill blood and steal. Even the Anarchists have organizers with very little respect for people who don’t pull their own weight.

All Gods, All Masters
Anarchism is aristocratic—anarchists just insist that the elite should consist of everyone…

Infantilism, I say!

We have no illusions that there are any shortcuts to anarchy. We don’t seek to lead “the” people, but to establish a nation of sovereigns; we don’t seek to be a vanguard of theorists, but to empower a readership of authors; we don’t seek to be the artists of a new avant garde, but to enable an audience of performers—we don’t so much seek to destroy power as to make it freely available in abundance: we want to be masters without slaves.

A paragraph of Orwellian Newspeak. As I mentioned above, atheists trade in the meanings of words for utility of words.

We recognize that power struggles and dynamics will always be a part of human life; many of us have a “tyrannical muse” we obey, albeit willingly, so we reserve even the right to command and serve when it pleases us. But, as they say, the only free human beings are the pauper and the king—the king being the less free of the two, since his kingdom still encumbers and limits him, while on her luckier days the hobo can feel that the whole of the cosmos exists for the sake of her pleasure and freedom—so we prefer not to trivialize ourselves by competing for such fool’s gold as ownership or authority.

That was an interesting take on “you will own nothing and you will be happy”. Just steal what you need, when you need it! All food is free because you deserve it! You are the Secret King of the World and all is rightfully yours to consume!

Then you mutate into a donkey pulling a heavy load.

And—when struggle is unavoidable, we would still prefer to be at the mercy of the violence and stupidity of other individuals than the violence and stupidity of humanity as it is distilled and marshaled by the state.

The state is rather more predictable than rampaging mobs.

We’re not egalitarians in the old sense: we’re not out to pull the rich and powerful down to “our level”—rather, we pity them for not being ambitious enough in their aspirations, and hope they will abdicate to join us in fighting to make it possible for everyone to ascend to greatness (that way, we won’t have to guillotine them).

“No pressure, rich dudes.”

…And Every God an Atheist
Anarchists not only deny the authority of God, Chief of Police of the Universe, but also maintain a healthy distrust of his successors: Nature, History, Science, Morality. We don’t account any being, system, or tradition the right to our unquestioning faith, since even when we esteem others’ knowledge or judgment better than our own we are still responsible for the choice to trust them. Accordingly, we don’t regard any contention or assumption as above dispute, and revel more in moving freely between paradigms than in debating which one is The Truth. We are especially suspicious of experts who would mediate between us and deities or spheres of knowledge, and prefer both to learn about the world and to contact the divine for ourselves.

The Anarchist hates God because he refuses to grow up. Refuses to discern good from evil by any standard that he personally doesn’t approve of. Refuses to submit to his Creator. Why would God allow such a creature into His home? It would only shit on the carpet then demand to be fed so it can shit again.

Justice as Judgment we count of little worth: we want to be practical, to solve problems, not to treat human relations and conduct as another economic exchange with righteousness for currency. We apply the idea of personal responsibility only to the extent that it is useful in making our relationships work; otherwise, it is of little interest to us whether a person’s soul is damned or redeemed, whether conduct is moral or immoral, whether society or the individual is to blame for a wrong.

Let it not be said about us that we hold nothing holy! On the contrary, we hold everything holy. Denying hierarchy means venerating the singular, incomparable beauty of every creature, every feature of the cosmos, every moment. Only appraisal and condemnation are anathema to us.

Graffiti on a church in Lisbon, 2001: “Without truth, you are the looser.”

I presume “loser”? Then the graffiti is correct. We who worship the True God, if He is not the truth, shall be losers on a cosmic scale. Our own Scriptures teach this because… wait for it… it’s true!

Against Gross Generalizations
All of us have grown up divided and conquered along lines of gender and sexual preference, body type and ethnicity, class and race, bought off with privileges and beaten down with psychological warfare so we’ll do our parts to keep the pecking order in place. White supremacy, patriarchy, and heterosexism are the pillars of this civilization. We anarchists fight against these oppressive structures whether we find them in society or ourselves; but we aim for more than the liberation of human beings of all identities—we want the liberation of all human beings from identity.

So then, all this criminalization of white Christian men and the West in general, it is capital-A Anarchy. Fascism in Il Duce’s sense of public-private corporatism, is merely poising itself to inherit the ashes. I do not believe that any Anarchy such as this primer describes is capable of creating a new society. It is merely, as it was in Europe’s recent past, a cultural fire of immediate gratification and eradication of moral conduct. Reducing humanity to spiritual infants ready to adopt a New World Religion.

There are no universals. Group identities are self-perpetuating fabrications that begin with circumstantial evidence and end by imposing a false uniformity. There are two genders, for example, like there are “only” twelve tones in every octave: it seems true when you look at a piano, but try opening your mouth and singing! Though “femininity” may appear ordained by nature to those who grew up in environments where all women shave their legs and armpits, it is just a generalization drawn from generations of standardized behavior, reinforced by each replication. But—as there is no “pure” femininity, no substance the generalization refers to besides what all the individual instances are perceived to have in common, and so each generation is not the “original” but a “copy”—the entire paradigm is at risk in every new generation, as it may be transformed…or abandoned.

At best, generalizations like class and gender can be used to undo themselves—to expose and confront the patterns of oppression that run through individual lives, to find common cause in fighting the invisibility of certain experiences and histories. We want to get beyond these and all categories and conflicts, but it’s only going to happen if we begin by addressing them. In men’s groups, human beings constructed as men can exchange skills for rewiring their programming; in women-only spaces, those constructed as women can explore similarly without the presence of men interfering. We defend the right of individuals to choose how they want to be identified—and no vision of unbounded life is any excuse to pretend the world is yet free anywhere from power imbalances. But ultimately it is revolution we’re after, not reform: we’re not petitioning for more rights for special interest groups, or more freedom of movement between established categories—we’re taking and making our right to make and remake ourselves in every moment, and wrecking the system of divisions in the process!

We are feminists who would abolish gender, labor organizers who would abolish work, artists fighting to destroy and transcend art. Our class war is a war against class, against classes and classification. When we say that we are against representation, we do not only mean representative “democracy”; we also mean that each of us is an irreducible individual, that none can speak for another. Neither politicians nor abstractions, neither delegates nor demographics can represent us!

When it comes to addressing others, don’t try to say “the” truth. Meddle with The Truth, undermine it, create a space in which new truths can form. Introduce questions, not answers—and remember, not all questions end in question marks. For the revolutionary, the essence of a statement lies in its effects, not in whether or not it is “objectively” true—this approach distinguishes her from philosophers and other idle bastards.

Whether they qualify as Communists or Socialist or Democrats or none, Anarchists are children of the Lie.

Beautiful Anarchists Desire You

I am suddenly interested!

These days it can be difficult, even terrifying, to be an anarchist. You may well be one of those people who hides her anarchism, at least in certain situations, lest others (equally scared, and probably by the same things) accuse you of being too idealistic or “irresponsible”—as if politely burying the planet in garbage isn’t!

But what about those beautiful Anarchists who desire me?

You shouldn’t be so timid—you are not alone. There are millions of us waiting for you to make yourself known, ready to love you and laugh with you and fight at your side for a better world. Follow your heart to the places we will meet. Please don’t be too late.

Oh. Right. And to think, they’d JUST said “Anarchists shouldn’t tell the truth.”

3 thoughts on “What Is Anarchy, Anyway? A Primer

  1. During the Russian Civil War, there was a small anarchist Black Army which fought both the Reds and the Whites. In the end, it was the Red Army that wiped out the Blacks.


  2. Orwell said much the same about the Spanish Civil War; the Communist and Anarchists partnered until the Communists established their hold on power. Andy Ngo says that in Weimar Germany where Antifa first came about, it was a paramilitary offshoot of the Communists… and less antifascist than anti-Socialist.


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