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Anarchism, What it Stands For, by Emma Goldman, summarized, modernized, translated into more plain language, and generally butchered by Cindy.
Every new idea that has brought humanity forward has been fought against viciously by people in power. Every new generation faces more insidious forms of social control, but still, the march towards freedom continues on.
There are so many bad things said about anarchism, I would have to write a whole book to talk about them all, so here I am just going to discuss two of the most prevalent arguments against it. First, people say it is an impractical, but beautiful ideal. Second, that anarchism stands for violence and destruction. Both of these are wrong.
What is practicality? Many people define it something that can happen in the existing conditions of society; but since the existing conditions are exactly what anarchism objects to, we have a different definition. We ask ourselves, is it something that has vitality enough to leave the stagnant waters of the old, and build as well as sustain new life? If you look at it this way, Anarchism is definitely practical!
As far as destruction and violence goes, those are things anarchism is fighting against. We are fighting against the violence of ignorance.
It requires less mental effort to condemn than to think. We ask you to think.
Definition: Anarchism: the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.
Our society is based on materialism and economic growth. Many anarchists agree that the main evil today is an economic one, but they maintain that the solution to that evil can only be brought about through the consideration of every phase of life, --individual as well as the collective; the internal as well as the external.
People must begin to see that individual and social needs are not inherently in conflict with each other. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing the element to keep the life essence pure and strong.
People must throw off the religiously based idea that humans are dependent on superior powers. Both religion and the State demand surrender, they demand that mankind must not become conscious of himself.
Religion is the domination of the human mind; property is the domination of human needs; and government is the domination of human conduct.
People tend to get nitpicky about the details of what is meant by “property is theft”. This concept was meant as a larger critique of an economically exploitative society, and shouldn’t be brought down to the level it is commonly debated - “what if I want to keep my..”
Property owners was used as another word for people who owned the means of production - the bosses and the rulers of the world who gain wealth off the labors of the poor and working classes.
America is boastful of her great power and enormous national wealth, but what is the point of wealth when so many people live without hope or joy, robbed of the power of free initiative, of originality, and when so many people still live in poverty. Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiriting to live in. But if humans are doomed to spend their time in meaningless work, there can be no talk of wealth.
In an Anarchist world, people would be able to realize their full potential. They would be able to chose what work was meaningful to them. Economically, it would be based on voluntary productive and distributive associations, gradually developing into free communism, as the best means of producing with the least waste of human energy.
Governments are steeped in injustice. They want to turn people into unthinking robots. They destroy the social relationship, and their main purpose is to protect property and ruling classes. Some people think governments are necessary to keep order, but order derived from submission and maintained by force are not the best kinds of order. True social harmony comes when people have shared interests, and in a society where some people work all the time and can still hardly support their families and other people don’t do shit but are richer than hell, you can hardly expect them to have shared interests.
Governments and laws don’t stop crime. Governments are the ones that go to war and commit the worst crimes of all. Most crime is committed because people are forced to live lives they hate, and do things that are unfulfilling. Laws aren’t going to help. What we need to do is rid the world of despair and poverty.
What about human nature? Are humans inherently wonderful or inherently wicked? Who knows. If you study caged animals in a zoo you’re not going to find out their true nature. People are animals in captivity. Only once we are truly free will we be able to see humanities true potentials.
Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the domination of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government and commercialism. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee every human access to the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
Anarchism is not going to come about through divine intervention. It is a living force in our life, constantly changing. There are no iron-clad rules. Methods must grow out of the economic and social needs in each place and time. Some may take a serene, Tolstoy like approach, some an intense, Bakuninistic type approach. Different methods, temperaments, and strategies are part of what anarchism is about. We do not want to create a uniform society, or a uniform social movement where everyone is forced to follow the same line. Anarchism stands for the spirit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that hinders human growth, that opposes the political and commercial machinery as a means of bringing about great social change, living the truth, reconstructing the world, and someday Anarchy will usher in the Dawn!