The Religion of Civility

(For Subversion News)

Two weeks after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the geniuses of sacred non-action are still at it.

Between “an-tee-fuh”, the “alt-left” and “violence on both sides“, we’re back to J20 and Pikeville as everyone crawls out of the woodwork to talk about the “violence on the left” and circulate their ready-made expertise on anti-fascism, all while dodging what lit a fire under them, or fighting the actual philosophical meat of it and broader anarchism with condescending outrage.

I’ve been focused on this since I got back, since this was my first major action since being physically involved in such things. Not only that, but the discussion has been going on for longer than expected. Charlottesville was the tamest anti-fascist demonstration I’ve ever seen. We came into a small town and ruined a white nationalist rally before it can even start, without many arrests and without much trouble from the cops, and yet this might be the one event of this decade’s anti-fascist activity that garners the most commentary from the right and center.

Those in the combination of their sheltered media chambers and traditional social litanies, instead of being on the ground in front of struggles, always get the loudest mic to speak into. Not like this is surprising: They get to be pampered by the social byproducts of others’ subordination, and simultaneously defend their legitimacy in all corners of life. Nonetheless, it peeves me when we continue encountering the same angry questions under a different name, and someone is expecting a new answer.

I think, along with someone being killed, the legalistics of permits and free speech coming into this really set the popular stage, allowing the white panic of preserving the current structures to coming into conflict with the larger goals of anti-fascism. Beyond that playing out as usual, I certainly think we’re on track toward a civil conflict for better or worse. Thats precisely why anti-fascists are going all out, we intend to win.

And with the “why” absolutely cleared just now, the heavier baggage of attacking assembly and working outside the perimeters of the law remains. Particularly, the use of violence.

We are always denying ourselves the reality of violence when talking about disrupting social systems. For Industrial Society 101, violence has been monopolized for generations through the state. This is the crux of the issue when looking at how smashing a corporation’s window stacks up to letting thousands of people go uninsured each year, and so on. People have an instinctive way of judging those scenarios with a set of obfuscated, reproduced norms that totally demonize one act while not paying a second glance to another.

Getting to where people see that and understand why its like this involves rediscovering history through a different lens, one that demonstrates how people then and now are affected and repressed. Even trickier is explaining why civility in these conditions is instantly surrender, and how developing our own strategies and coming together on our own terms is the best way to win a better world.

Civility, in how society is presently arranged, is the effect of the privileged accumulating the complacency of the ruled. Alternative social patterns are simply unthinkable or collectively hammered into our skulls as impractical and dangerous, so generations typically reproduce an atmosphere of things being stable the way they are, or disseminating spirituality as a coping mechanism for life being unbearable. Coupled with familial castes and popular media, we have the central nervous system of capitalist state society: a populous that is comfortable and obedient in the limits they were told are the infinite expanses of life.

Resistance happens when the requirements for capital and privilege (subordination, stratification) build up into distinct social groups. With what freedom of thought the ruled have to themselves, there is capacity to design alternatives and nourish its growth while in bondage. Cultures that solidify around exploitation always secure their dreams with a rich and resonating community. Slavery in North America and a class of African descendants carried on a particular consciousness that lives in the changing face of racism and white supremacy. From Nat Turner in 1830s Virginia plantations, to the Black Panthers in 1960s Harlem, to Black Lives Matter in contemporary liberal America, the consciousness that intersects with other struggles (workers’ and queer struggle, etc.) finds the very channels that mediate or propagate oppression and grow beneath them.

Over time, however, incremental reformism has proven to be the most hypnotizing buffer between the dissolving of bondage and the securing of privilege. After trade unionism was legalized, participation in social movements became increasingly perfunctory and symbolic, crystallizing the aversion to direct action in favor of seeking legitimacy from higher authorities. People’s self-confidence in their own actions were, and have increasingly become, disarmed and filtered into a singular, designated political sphere that was reinforced by the doctrines of civility.

Those who cling to this model do so for varying reasons. Commonly in the United States, its liberals whose political identity was forged solely out of this model and know nothing beyond it, or its conservative-right people who find this model to always be a stepping stone toward a real instance of their ideals. The sanctity of what they’re familiar with, the desperation in avoiding what requires fundamental restructuring and demonizing the interests of the exploited always play a synchronized part in propping up a confused warning of danger to further influence civility.

What makes for an obvious double-standard but a opportune entryway is how people who declare that life is savage and that things like markets and speculation are rooted in a human instinct toward savagery can’t at least reconcile this with anti-fascists acting in such a way. The doctrine of “tough shit” is always hammered into those with social grievances, but suddenly the lecturers are shaking in their boots when the act of brutality expands inward on the whole framework.

Undoing this ritual requires understanding violence and the relationships around it: whats is considered violent, how it is regulated, how it is ultimately relative and where to go with that understanding.

Violence is a character of life, a means of dispensing power. But more deeply, violence as a social phenomena isn’t a defined, tangible thing as we might envision it. The underpinnings of force are typically applied to an inherently political situation and manipulated depending on the actor. This covers everything from breaking the windows of a bank that evicts people from their houses, the police arresting protesters, to any form of speech that resonates in society.

Expression has long been painted in the light of reducing the consequences of what people say. On one hand, people today seem to allow racists as well as far-left radicals to say what they please in equal measure. But on the other, they reserve their rights to “disagree” with whomever. These reactions are the modifications to consequences in the light of mediation. They acknowledge an idea of consequences of speech, but only in the form of their own reaction and its relationship to discourse. The possibility of any consequences outside of this are left up to pacifying or quelling forces, like the police. So long as an authority rests on top of these transactions, and as long as they are imbued with trust in stopping anything that deviates from civility, there can only be popular displacement from the genuine consequences outside of upper middle class communities. So while a racist spreading lies about marginalized communities means little to a well-off liberal, it means a hell of a lot to those who will see and live through the consequences of that speech right in front of them.

This is probably the summary for why free speech isn’t so much “opposed” by anti-fascists and anarchists as much as its just a terrible reduction of what language is. Language is a tool as powerful as cutting individuals off from your life or starting rumors. Such things have intention and weight, they accomplish things whether explicit or not. If we can imagine what such things mean for tight-knit social groups of single-digit amounts of people, think of its impact on anything from towns, to cities, to whole continent populations. But again, as long as quelling authorities rest on top of these intimately human transactions, they will always be reduced down to the ins and outs of politics while the genuine consequences play out unaccounted for. Disconnected from any social importance.

So in this framing, the features and levels of violence are anything but unanimously agreed on. Political actions are commonly measured by the weight they carry and how forceful or affective they are, but the affiliation the action is bound to is always the deciding factor for whether its violent.

But the relativity of violence doesn’t imply a disregard for what it accomplishes. For anti-fascists, it isn’t unitary violence that is examined as much as whats behind the violence, who is doing it and to what ends. Violence is expected from the opposition as much as it is from the bindings of today’s society, and so which violence we oppose is made clear because it enforces what we want destroyed. Regardless of seeing the word violence and knowing that people will imagine vastly different examples, it describes an emotional reality underneath the vagueness, and it can be used to align our intentions properly.

Denouncing violence is like denouncing the force required in tackling anything that works against you, but we cannot take this to just mean “in self-defense.” Reducing all of self-defense down to immediate physical protection neglects what violence and preserving oneself entails, especially in a setting where the lifeblood of society is constant threat. The end goal is to eliminate structures of violence: coercion, domination and the like, which comprise forces decidedly not relative, and perform concrete functions such as capitalism, state repression and social bigotry that build a reality of suffering.

The instinctual disregard for criticism from the right and center comes from their dependence on what social emancipation requires destroying. By relying on “its not that bad”, “haven’t you learned anything from Stalin?” or “you hate free speech”, we meet at the same starting point over and over. All that time wasted trying to explain our case just for it to be thrown out could be spent organizing and arming around worthwhile goals.

Obedience to currently acceptable ideals has driven the left away from debate, because the requirement to be taken seriously is to lie down and submit or risk being named “alt”. And every time a glimpse of our case is made, the reaction is simply angry defense of political essentialism or flipping the narrative.

So speaking calmly and acting how we’re told has been proven fruitless, a spectacle for the media facade and self-service repression. We’re over playing pretend. As spontaneous action finds its way in the streets and communities, as the structures of privilege and coercion are discredited, we’re reaching a trying time of discovering our strength and wielding it together, or once again rebranding the game of domination.

Non-violence can only persuade authority to take a new shape or expand appeasement, but it can never mend the relations of exploitation and violence that anarchists will always oppose. Autonomy and dignity in our lives will always be sacrificed so long as we act obediently in the shadow of power.

We might have landed on a particularly stubborn generational spot for the next social transition to happen, as most people still don’t see how we went from Kings and Surfs to Bosses and Employees. Its always difficult to attack the conscience of the population without seemingly devaluing the whole of their character. In doing the latter, we become just as bad as our enemies in allowing material mechanisms to segment us from the whole of humanity. It takes reminding oneself of the values they inherited and the vessel that expresses them, seeking only to revise one of them for everyone’s wellness.

We don’t desire or get anything out of talking down to everyday people, but the frustration and outrage that is perpetuated through popular channels creates the only audible tone. As much as we would prefer diverse and colorful images of anarchy and vanquished white supremacy as a gift to all, a rich connection between the individual, the world, and what fills the space between them, those would be dismissed as utopian in a heartbeat.

The monotone black [and red] of militant negation appears to set the stage well enough for what we have to deal with presently. We appear to be assholes because we’re backed into such a corner where we only have so much to work with. And with what is available to us, we consistently build up our conclusion.

Nazis are for shutting down and putting down, not assimilating and regulating as you would anyone else. Free speech is a political right afforded to you by the same class of elites who arrange the wages of starvation, mandate ritualistic appeals to higher-ups and draw out who suffers and who dispenses. When people aren’t separated from consequences, it isn’t a social axiom that anybody abides by even in their most intimate setting.

We’ll soon be forced out of our screen-lit rooms and into the world we’ve abandoned, reeling at what we left to fester. Popular conscience will experience a thermal shock of reality when people understand that mediating fascism, whether by trademarked Rational Centrism over twitter or the holiness of legislation, is a joke when the bodies start piling up.

So, whats the solution? Social revolution.

The Religion of Civility

A brief, opinionated overview of Democracy and Anarchy

I use the phrase democracy, when describing an alternative social assortment, to refer to people managing themselves on a shared horizontal basis. Doing this is rather controversial in anarchist discussion, because there are recent critiques on the role, meaning and consequences of what has historically been attributed to ‘democracy’. Especially, when considering the different implications raised in advocating an apparently fixed system while affiliating with those opposed to hierarchy and imposed order.

The debate around ‘democracy’ in anarchist circles comes down mainly to semantics and practice. The former covers the abstractness of the word, including the perspective that it has historically developed into a sort of facade to entice the masses into an incorporated tyranny that imposes the will of the majority on the minority, instead of consolidating voices and meeting them equally. With this in mind, there is an idea that it can only be exercised along these lines. The latter questions the positioning of a process once defined: if such a process is central and overarching to all portions of a society like in nation-states, or if its freely carried out by the agreement of individual groups.

The first step is to express the actual nuance of what I mean. For starters, I don’t argue for a definite political shape, but I do advocate definite principles by which something might take one. I don’t even argue for voting toward a majority [by default] (I think in the worst-case scenario, its necessary for resolving a severe dispute), but I do encourage a mix of valuing our concerns equally through consensus with an understanding that we know when to consent to entrusting temporary power to someone on our immediate behalf when a situation calls for it.

The second is to emphasize not a defense of democracy as any system but as a descriptor. It is used to condense an idea of participatory politics that is bound to emerge in people not alienated by status or privilege. We can easily imagine ‘democracy’ stripped down to its core idea separate from the historical corrupted practice. Does it really matter if the origin of democracy, the idea that people can rule themselves, is one of contradiction and folly? Does it matter with any idea that became a basis for politics in the future? We don’t seem to mind that a lot of the forerunners of anarchism had various contradictions of opinion because of the time in which they wrote, and so it doesn’t add up to me to apply this concern then to a label for some sort of self-direction, even if an imperfect one. I don’t think it hurts to repurpose the face of a clear idea that hardly ever had its time in the sun because the guy who happened to introduced it first acted on it in terrible, oppressive ways.

There are infinite ways to approach and define democracy in the same sense there are ways to define and approach anarchy/ism. We’re talking about a notion of how things interrelate, or should, and the outline of accomplishing something around that. This often doesn’t come with a prescribed set traits that the pillars of action need, taking for instance how leftism doesn’t narrow to one or two schools. We’re left to expand these notions as we go along with action, and with continuous action comes the changed impression of it, such as an interpretation of democracy.

We can probably spend days on end taking one feature used in a political program, dissecting its aim, history, causes and effects and relaying it to the present aim we’re invested in. We can do that to anything. We can take self-determination and turn it into a fascist concept because Hitler advocated a sort of nationalist, white self-determination. In the same way, we already know how bastardized ‘freedom’ has become thanks to the capitalist, patriarchal narratives of the United States. What matters is using terms and ideas in a general proximity to our actual aim through context and elaboration. No one idea is ours or the enemy’s, but its up to us to give it an alternative practice.

We’ve simply arrived at one set of analyses that sees democracy as a holistic product of the nation-state which gravitates toward being an overarching, unportable mode of tyranny in the pursuit of deciding on an action via majority. The problem is that me and those who think this way have been talking about the same thing.

I can and will contend that democracy in the forms people are most acquainted with developed out of a softening of protecting tyranny on other fronts. It didn’t develop out of liberation, but as a way to make control more appealing and imbued with the social romance of participation, and it certainly didn’t take into account a fundamental emphasis on communal autonomy that we desire now. It stemmed from monarchy and oligarchy and thus inherited a good deal of those undertones, which is seen in the credence of majority-rule. But my defense isn’t really about defending democracy, if that makes any sense. Its about defending a way to explain a complex approach in one analogous word or comparison.

Additionally to this is the adjective direct. Direct democracy is another example under this; there is the Swiss quasi-direct democratic model (in which citizens partly take the place of representatives) that is championed by various progressives in American politics, and there is the kind of direct that is theorized, and even practiced, but not the staple of ideal democracy as a diverse body. One that strives for consensus and cooperation rather than a chattering box of winners and loosers. One that is unmitigated and spontaneous in it being compelled only by the result of a freely taken participation. One which makes a viable case that the anarchist objections to so-called ‘democracy’ are actually objections to oligarchy and opportunism, and not what was actually stolen from us by these barriers.

I am, of course, referring to the deliberative and federal structures that existed in the social revolutionary experimentations of different areas in the world at one point or other. Direct takes on a different form in this sense. It departs from a suggestion in the word alone that the workers directlyengage in a competitive environment of how they ought to do things without representation; a glamorized distancing from solidarity. Instead it envisions that we are directly connected to, and responsible for, the situations we find ourselves in and the steps we take to accomplish things, thus sustaining the reciprocal autonomy of the collective and the individual. Direct suggests the residents, the workers: the anarchist conception of the demos (everyone), are the direct cause and effect of collective action; that there is no fixed destination to strive for as the intermediary, but a goal constantly evolving with the actions of those taking part.

The social vision remains precisely the same while the use of terms contrast. It can never be guaranteed if we mean the same thing when our preferences for words are so diverse.

Probably the most popular contrast I’ve encountered is that we should not have democracy, but anarchy. And while this is completely true for the overarching condition where free decision-making can flourish, we are still subject to define some practices inside the existence of real possibility. We are referring to the existence of any decision-making practice under anarchy. Its through democracy, any process of shared self-management, that anarchy is given meaning and the actual channels to exercise itself. In this sense, when one advocates a direct form of democracy they are necessarily advocating the enveloping condition of anarchy. But the need for anarchy is satisfied through more than just that. Its accomplished by the existence of varied and decentralized methods. Moreover, there cannot be anarchy without an association to confirm that suggestion for themselves.

If someone is looking for a home, that is the guiding condition which will be satisfied by the acquisition of one. But they cannot have acquired a house without it possessing some property of color, shape or size. They then become in possession of a home as the satisfaction of the need, but there is a set of other characteristics that becomes part of the scenario. This is what I’m talking about when I mean democracy. Its the adjective to first describe the closest familiar type of a just arrangement of affairs, and then an extended guiding principle from that understanding to avoid accidentally describing central, enveloping democracy rather than anarchy with autonomous structures under it.

People right now happen to think in terms of Democracy or Dictatorship. That doesn’t mean I reduce my own language and understanding for their sake, but I do place self-management to what its closest to when having to describe anarchist principles to everyday people. Thats how I got where I am, and I have a habit of passing on the same thing when I have the chance to inform people. Again, what matters most is elaborating your use of terms in hopes to disarm conflicts of connotations.

I think we’re simply facing a tangle in deconstructing everything, meanwhile people like me have grasped what they meant before anything was said. It seems the no-democracy types are addressing the liberal idea of more citizen-participation in the state instead of a situation where individuals, free of class and social authority, are the cause of organizations and decisions directly. But there is a tendency for dialogs to recurse and inadvertently become a critique of its own idea utilizing sometimes confusing points which we already sympathized with.

If we need to level with each other, fine: I’m not defending democracy. Certainly not the state attempt at it, the majority-only approach, the replacement for individual autonomy or the liberal direct concept. But I am defending the use of it as a vehicle to convey our proposed modes of organizing and acting. Democracy is overall a figure of language. Its pliable and abstract, something no term is free of. But knowing this, we should not distance from it. We should acknowledge it’s use to explain similar principles that the anarchists take into deeper consideration. It just so happens that there are different historical and political tragedies that we share in being connected to the principles done differently. We share this issue in our conceptions of freedom, equality and liberation that differ from other philosophies, and simply put: it doesn’t seem reasonable to hold contempt for an impression of a concept we are otherwise tied to as anarchists.

If democracy is a word anarchists are uncomfortable with, they are welcome to harp on about autonomy, horizontality and self-determination ‘only’, and while those are the exact principles I advocate through a popular figure of language, they shouldn’t expect newcomers to be too open and patient with them when they feel like someone is speaking an entirely different language to them. And thats really all this comes down to. Its not about advocating democracy or autonomy, its about the two being synonymous in a certain context, and unfortunately about people wasting their breath when they could just use one word.

A brief, opinionated overview of Democracy and Anarchy

Social Anarchism Explained Simply

December 2017 note: My own choices of words and examples to describe the nature of concepts have changed a year later. While this essay doesn’t totally deviate from my feelings as of this note, I think that I make too many exceptions with notions like “authority,” “property,” “hierarchy” and “[direct] democracy” that conflict with my present relationships to them. This is not to insight semantic tensions around the content of this work, but to express my own personal changes since the time after publishing this.

The purpose of this article is to give a simple overview of what are the chief ideals of the socialist anarchist tendency of radical political thought, made accessible to the layman.

Considering the volatile shift in the American political environment at present and its influence on the opposition of the victor in the 2016 presidential election, there is bound to be unintelligent conversation when in the course of mainstream discussion around the reemergence of anarchist and communist dialog. This article is intended to correct those misunderstandings in advance and provide an untampered glimpse into the anti-authoritarian far-left. This is done partly against the continuing debate over semantics corrupting substantive discussion in the mainstream, with the hopes of stepping into a less warped understanding of anarchism and what it means to be an anarchist or socialist.

The method used here will be to define and differentiate concepts and institutions to give a nuanced designation of either a concept or institution’s mere reformation, or a collective effort to transcend it, under the realization of social anarchist principles. Furthermore, where a concept is not to be totally abolished under a totalitarian apparatus as popular misconception might suggest, but for its practice to transition to work under a far more equitable social configuration than in a coercive, hierarchical system. With this method in mind, we will go through several crucial elements with an anarchist analysis that defines the approach.


The ability to do anything with all social components cooperating with the person taking action, or an individual’s free will being practical in a social setting, is the sum of what is meant by “power”. The ability to take action in favor or against something, amass and guide support, create lasting change, benefit the wellness of others, pave the way for the future. These are all examples of power, where efforts involving you or others are almost always immediately successful or at least very possible. This can obviously be used for good or bad.

Power concentration is the condition of power being mostly if not totally controlled by a specific ruling apparatus, while those subject to its demands are left with an impotent possession of social power. This is the basis for state societies and governments where we are required to submit to their status.

With this in mind, power is understood as an essential device of human progress, and so anarchism is far from opposing this, and instead wants to see power made accessible to all people without distinction. In practice, the abundance of power would create a self-correcting, self-sustaining federation of communities where the well-being and equality of all people would be the constant aim. This end is assisted by further concepts of material conditions which nullifies the expectation of barbarism in a scenario where there is no restrain on people’s ability to do things. As we go on, this will become clear.


Authority amounts to one action or possession of power being varyingly more legitimate than another. This can exist in different contexts, such as a qualification on an intellectual matter or in a profession, which are separate from the central type of authority that anarchists oppose.

In referring to a social system based on the constant exercising of authority, this provides the anarchist movement with its goal of anti-authoritarianism. The opposition to a system of management in which a select few hold authority over the direction of the association is central to this. It may be more adequate to define anarchism as anti-authoritarian and not anti-authority, as authority can exist in a resonable context under an anarchist society, while authoritarianism, the disproportionate system of coercive authority, cannot. This type of authority is exercised by governing bodies, the police and military, bosses and owners, etc.

One key notion as put forth by professor and author Noam Chomsky is that authority which cannot justify itself cannot be justifiable for those subject to it, and must therefore be replaced by a better social system.

Additionally, anarchist theorist Mikhail Bakunin stated the following on distinguishing the function of authority verses coercive authority.

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognise no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such an individual, I have no absolute faith in any person.

— What Is Authority?, 1882

Its important to note that most anarchists will claim that they oppose “authority” when referring specifically to coercive authority and its primary implementation: social hierarchy.

Social Hierarchy

In terms of how an association is organized, social hierarchy is an arrangement of people in terms of their authority or status. This creates a relationship (sometimes called a “relationship of power”) where what ultimately matters is who is higher up in the hierarchy (boss, politician, etc.), and that who is in service to that authority’s interest is obedient (worker, citizen). This negates the interests of the worker who performs a task for the boss, or a citizen who is subject to the constraints of the state.

As most people would rightly assume the person responsible for the use and maintenance of an object should be the legitimate controller of it, but instead this is given to someone who does not directly operate it, and is simply an appointed, unjustified controller over those who do the actual work. The dictates of the individual at the top of the hierarchy is what matters, and not the interests of the majority subjected to the hierarchy.

With all power centered in a hierarchy, there is no alternative choice of it and we become dependent on it. It forms a self-perpetuating, exploitative relationship where the only option for those within it to survive is obedience, which contributes to the continued necessity of servitude. The instinct to survive overrides the creative and constructive traits of individuals, and reduces them to mere cogs in the exploitative yet sustaining machine of hierarchically structured organizations.

Hierarchy in other contexts is similar to authority in serving reasonable purposes, but it is believed in anarchism that there are arbitrary and unreasonable positions of power over other people that form abusive and inefficient relationships, which in turn unfairly benefits a minority in power and deprives people of their humanity. Unjustified hierarchy, very much synonymous with unjustified authority, is arguably the core enemy in the eyes of anarchists, which manifests in numerous ways.

Property, Ownership and Capitalism

Property is the quality of any item belonging to a group or individual. In the political and economic sense, this refers to who is responsible for the operation of a business or other legally/socially affected establishment. There are a few ways in which this is outlined. Among them, the most common form in state society, is private ownership, in which the authority in a hierarchy controls property (in this case, what is called the means of production: machinery, offices, farms, etc.) while it is operated and tended to by the employment of workers, which generates money, a small fraction of which given to the workers to rent them into continued service (called wage labor) for the productivity of the private business. A market system works alongside this, where a society’s transactions of goods and services is directed by many other businesses, which affects the conditions (prices, demands) of items in circulation for the profit of the owners, all dependent on the rented (exploited) labor of everyday people.

This state of affairs is called capitalism, firstly originating from unequal power in ownership, and working through the reduction of human beings to disposable assets. Additionally, the outcomes of capitalist entrenchment have proven to be the most pervasive, widespread and socially accepted forms of malice by any hierarchical institution. It places the importance of profit far over that of immediate human needs, primarily because it continues to aid in the essential presence of money and market systems in global society. Its existence relies on wasteful practices and artificial scarcity to continue its validity in the eyes of those who it employs and who lives in what it has come to dominate through the centuries following the industrial revolution. This is due in part to the immense bulk of wealth generated that is either wasted in continuous growth expenses, or simply lost to the workers who have made that wealth possible.

Within state societies, a set of property rights is enforced by the government to give legal protection to the owners of private property. These are often used against those (anarchists) seeking the transformation of private ownership into a democratic arrangement. Because the state coupled with capitalism relies on the influx of money, it requires the protection of the producers of it to continue functioning, and so a legal framework is made for deterring its interruption.

Property belonging to an individual is personal property, in which the ownership does not affect other people in any way and serves only the desired use of the owner. This includes houses or apartment rooms, clothing, personal vehicles, electronic devices, tools, books; usually everyday things people have. It is very important to distinguish private and personal property to avoid misunderstandings that have presently been accepted as facts of anarchism. Anarchism seeks that these personal belongings be totally unaffected, but that the means to create them and distribute them are made available to people in a democratic fashion through the process of expropriation (which requires the destruction of capitalism). The kind of ownership of productive property which anarchists seek is called social ownership, where the members of a group own and control the property together without a hierarchical arrangement. This also has its own subtypes.

  • Collective ownership, which refers to group-ownership by joint agreement; e.g., the members of a union agreeing to own a factory and manage their work democratically. (This can be seen in syndicalism or an anarchist market system, and is the root of socialism.)
  • Common ownership, which refers to productive property being owned equally and indivisibly, as a characteristic of society beyond specific agreement; e.g., a community opening its machinery and factories to all members of it. (This form normally constitutes a gift economy model of exchange, and thus the enveloping principle of communism.)
  • Among others (mutualism, participatory economics) which share traits of the previous two.

Social anarchists commonly fluctuate between the first two types of social ownership, sometimes viewing collective ownership as a means to recover into adopting common ownership, or combining the two. The purpose of striving toward social ownership is to establish an important guiding principle: labor according to the extent of one’s abilities, and consumption according to their needs. This is the basis for emancipation from capitalism, creating material abundance of goods and equitable productivity among a workforce.


Class, referring to social class, is a kind of hierarchy which outlines people’s social and economic relation to capitalism and the state. It is primarily determined from one’s relationship to the means of production, while other factors include income, occupation, housing and education. Two contrasting sides (with one meeting in the middle) are made from who gains an upper hand in a system built on hierarchical power relations, normally consisting of who gives orders and who follows them, and who indirectly contributes to the oppression of the other class. Simply put, one class has little and is forced to sell their labor for the other class who has much and does little if any actual work in comparison. This creates a stark contrast of material conditions consisting of a possessing and non-possessing class; working class (historically called the proletariat) and upper (owning, bourgeoisie) class respectively, where the working class is forced to rent themselves out to the profit interests of the owning class in order to survive. Exploited and Exploiter thus becomes a noticeable dichotomy.

For the individual, in the course of working to better oneself under this, a multitude of expenses and debts such as rent, bills, taxes and prices are put upon them to overcome while under a limited income, making enjoyment of life increasingly scarce with the pressures of money-dependent society. The atmosphere of dependence on renting oneself out becomes the whole mode of life: basing our daily lives on the time and dates we attend work and carefully planning what fractions of wages we’ve earned to pay for goods and essentials. Fabricated concepts like The American Dream exist to keep people emotionally chained to the labor market; either to remain an exploited pawn or to assume the role of an exploiting boss.

The class system in the last several decades has expanded to combine different groups of people, such as women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community, disabled people, and others. Because of this, those in lower classes also meeting criteria for these groups experience additional societal disadvantages coupled with being working class. The result is a condition where white, male, able-bodied working people, while still working class, experience an involuntary, unfair advantage in capitalist state society, known as social privilege. This is not the fault of individuals or traits, but a function of social hierarchy. Moreover, it has shifted working people’s focus away from class issues and kept it in the direction of race, sex, etc., in the form of impotent identity politics which distracts from uniting these overlapping struggles into a singular force against the source of oppression, and serves to divide people further.

Now, lets put all this together…

Power is greatly filtered and suppressed by forms of coercive authority and social hierarchy which are dependent on the disposable service of those who live under them. In capitalism, the most prevailing kind of coercion, we find ourselves divided into classes which specify what relation people have to the capitalist system. It identifies workers as non-consenting servants to an all-encompassing domination. In the state, an extension of this coercion overlays and acts as the front-end enforcement of profit. Property rights provide the legal protection of exploitation, and institutions like the military and police physically enable it while representative or parliamentary government determines the wages of force.

The state and capitalism are not viewed as separate entities, but as united halves of an exploitative whole possessing similar but nuanced functions. Both interlace and combine powers to form appendages of maintaining each other. Such things as imperialism (the global expansion of state and capitalist rule) are acted on when investing domination in other regions becomes necessary for profit.

Complimentary to this are the prejudiced narratives of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. They originated from other socially hierarchical perspectives, but were directly amplified by the owning class (both in encouraging racist and sexist dialog, and oppressing minority groups) in later centuries to distract working people from immediate exploitation, and initiate a splintered working class to sabotage unity.

There are a number of other factors that play into coercive hierarchy differently, some matters of debate within the anarchist community. But in total, they return to being symptoms of social hierarchy than singular autonomous problems to be added to a long, hypothetical list of issues to tackle.

What all this means

The problem in short is that the important associations in society are arranged in such a way that take advantage of desperation from the conditions which the structure has made concrete to advance itself and keep the subjugated in continued service, working in a cycle. The solution in the anarchist perspective is to bring the working class and other disadvantaged groups together in solidarity and cooperation to replace (by force) hierarchical social arrangements with a democratic and voluntary structure. The way of doing this is to advocate class consciousness, a set of knowledge of what would benefit one’s class, in working people to inform them that what they live in is rigged against them — not simply the present condition of the structure (who is in charge or what the law is) but the structure itself (capitalism, the state, social hierarchy).

Social Anarchism is used to denote itself from radically individualistic trends of anti-statism (such as “anarcho-capitalism” or “free-market anarchism”) which are dismissive of unifying communal efforts, in favor of individual, sometimes hierarchical, institutions existing free of a state, but nothing further. Social anarchism puts importance on community and equality being integral to the security of individual autonomy and freedom. This is a big reason “social anarchism” is specifically used than simply “anarchism”. Interchangeably, Libertarian Socialism is used to lessen an emphasis on explicit anti-statism and instead offer an approach to socialism (worker-control over the means of production) different from the intellectual stigma that has popularly corrupted its meaning.

Anarchy is not chaos, as the most continuous misconception suggests. The phrase meaning without rulers does not entail without rules or without order. It is the condition of people being emancipated from arbitrary institutions of power concentration which thrive off of exploitation and require manufactured violence to vaguely justify themselves. This means that not only will chaos and violence not be abundant, but it will lack purpose when people’s desperation is destroyed alongside capitalist domination. Moreover, any violence is far more suited to exist in an anarchist society than a state society, as people’s direct efforts of combating it are the only solutions, and therefore the most effective and stable, as decided democratically by those immediately affected by violence.

It further postulates that brutality, crime, prejudice and social competition are outcomes of the imbalances caused by social hierarchy and exploitation, and thus it seeks to overthrow and replace these systems with an equitable and democratic group of systems, where power is wielded equally by all and social security is guaranteed by a resulting abundance of material goods and equitable productivity, disarming inner-class conflicts.

In total, the underlying goal of anarchism is to establish perfect human autonomy in all realms of social life: To restructure things and make people free of coercion, the filtering and restraining of power and labor out of desperation. Where principles of direct democracy, free association, horizontal cooperation and self-management guide the growth and health of a community where its functions were formerly entrusted in the state, capitalism and other disproportionate models of occupancy. To enrich freedom of thought, creativity, expression and the expansion of individual personhood and identity. To make the occupants of communities the direct managers of themselves and associate freely with others; in the hopes of a new global, voluntary community breaking the chains of hierarchical confinement.

Schools of Thought

With these principles in mind, a multitude of tendencies of anarchism interpret the ideal means of achieving this differently, specifying different approaches to aspects of society. A few of the major social anarchist tendencies will be explained in under one paragraph.

  • Anarchist Communism — Also called anarcho-communism, anarchist communism is derived from the works of Russian scientist, activist and writer Peter Kropotkin, specifically his books The Conquest of Bread and Mutual Aid. The tendency derives from these works that the state, capitalism, wage labor, markets and private ownership must be abolished and replaced with common ownership of the means of production, direct democracy governing a horizontal federation of voluntary communes, and work being done under the guiding principle of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. Furthermore, the tendency advocates that human beings are naturally inclined toward cooperation rather than competition in the course of production and general society, in contrast to the Darwinist application to society at large. It was the underlying principle behind the Ukrainian Free Territory led by Nestor Makhno in 1918, and is widely believed to be the most common trend of social anarchism.
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism — Originating in the works of Mikhail Bakunin and Collectivist Anarchism(in which collective ownership under a stateless society is achieved through violent revolution), Anarcho-Syndicalism emphasizes radical trade unionism, solidarity and direct action as a means to overwhelm capitalist society and gain large-scale worker control of the economy. With this control, they aim to implement workers’ self-management, abolish the wage system (understood as wage slavery) and transform private property into collective property, gradually expanding this control to other territories and countries. Historically, the most ideal example of anarcho-syndicalism put into real-world use is the trade union activity in the Spanish Revolution of 1936. Members of the CNT and FAI trade unions (among other communist groups) rose up against the existing government and reclaimed Catalonia, Aragon and other smaller parts of Spain under principles of workers’ self-management and direct democracy before the Second World War. German anarchist Rudolph Rocker outlined the history and methods of the tendency in his work Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice.
  • Anarcha-Feminism — Combining opposition to capitalism and the state with feminist concerns of women affected by social hierarchy, anarcha-feminism is a school that seeks to dismantle male-centric social domination (patriarchy) in favor of an equal ground between men and women, complimentary to a stateless, horizontal and democratic society welcoming of free love and non-traditional relationships. Feminist anarchist Emma Goldman famously pioneered the combining principles of anarchism with women’s independence from male coercive authority, among fighting homophobia within anarchist circles and criticism of organized religion.
  • Mutualism — Often debated as a more individualist trend of anarchism, Mutualism seeks to establish a reciprocal market system of voluntary associations and means of production, either collectively or privately owned, with use and occupancy justifying ownership alongside self-defense and free contract. It is derived from the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who famously began to establish the anarchist perspectives on property, ownership and labor.
  • Platformism — A kind of organizing method usually coupled with anarcho-communism, platformism seeks to create tightly-organized anarchist federations as a means to gain broad influence in the working class, rather than only appealing to the far-left. It holds that unity in tactics and ideas, consensus-based decision-making and collective responsibility held by the federation is important in effectively engaging in a class war. This stands in contrast to Insurrectionary anarchism, which instead favors temporary, loosely-connected affinity groups as means toward an anarchist society.
  • Infoanarchism — A recent trend of anarchism, Infoanarchism reconciles decentralized distribution of computer-based information with the aim of creating a stateless society — the Internet seen as being a model of such a society. It primarily opposes copyright law, intellectual property and censorship, deeming them to be state and capitalist tampering in the free and anarchic nature of public information. Though not explicitly in connection to conventional class-struggle trends of anarchism, being more associated with Internet piracy, copyleft and the free culture movement, Infoanarchists have made connections to their approach with how a revolution would operate and participate in direct action over the Internet.

The matter of actually convincing one to identify as an anarchist will be up to their own autonomy of intellect. While one’s material interests in their unfettered perfection would certainly persuade them to it, no one can expect anyone to throw off what convictions they were born into and cling to in the light of new information. The intention of this essay is strictly to give proper representation of the perspective lost in mainstream discourse, and for the debates over semantics to whither away.

Author’s Proposals To Anarchists

The anarchist movement has existed for well over two hundred years. Its core values have been around for about as long as recorded history, but within two hundred years of enlightenment thinking propelling anti-authoritarianism, it has had plenty of time to develop and connect itself with the further identification of hierarchies as they formed. This time has allowed us to examine the methods of bringing people in and what side-effects they had.

Intellectual narratives generally produce a shock in their respective society. In the matter of feminism, it produced a shock in the 1960s and 70s that cultivated discussion around the role of women in society. The drug culture produced shock around illicit substances, their use, their morality and the laws concerning them. These “shocks” are the phenomena of new ideas, not unlike the awe of a marvel or tragedy. The substance is more or less absent to those looking at it, the only genuine value is the spectacle than any meaning.

What really makes the spectacle is conflict, when we have a hypothetical red team and blue team going at it in some way, and nobody is really invested in any side being the victor, let alone anyone joiningthat side, except for the sides essential to having the spectacle go on. We already know this is the model for contemporary politics, with voting having been reduced to a mere obligation of citizenship. In the age of light-speed access to information, the public’s love of conflict merely for one to attach their comments to it overshadows any genuine attempt at social change. On top of this, we aren’t even safe from this alone with ourselves. We have layers upon layers of these spectacles: Inner-community drama over orthodoxy, language, methods, tendencies, and even drama over drama. Posturing and hypocrisy boils over, blinded by the banner of socialism or anarchism, causing the splintering, the separating and the cementing, just for us to splinter and separate again as the forces of profit and imperialism expand unhindered.

I think this is bound to happen when we keep putting ideas out in the way we have online (which is, thankfully to a point, the only way of getting anything out anymore) for the last decade. Its my opinion that we don’t want to have another culture shock where we merely have another divide between adherents and opponents for the uninvested everyday person and omnipresent capitalist class to act as spectators to. Doing so totally reduces ideas to names than informed approaches to life. We instead want discussion not for the sake of looking correct and representing an idea, knowing its just going to devolve into sensation, but for the actual manifestation of a voluntary structure of society, with a sort of foreknowledge that working people in general can easily sympathize what we mean when we address the latest grievances and the unspoken origins of them when we escape the spectacle.

Mere discussion and team-picking is simply posturing, high school levels of shallowness, and furthermore the divides within sides produces more and more spectacles that make a joke of something crucial to mankind’s continued existence. In the same manner of speech and intellectual communities, we should strive toward organizations which emphasize the means of arriving at a horizontal arrangement of society, and more plainly, what we agree on and not mending each difference of perspective. We also do not want posturing given any power outside or within the communities, placing a higher importance on the substance of the association, removing any sort of contradictory competition of who can satisfy a subjective idea of being the best leftist. We want to focus on what we’re here for and not let petty contextual differences ruin something good.

We’ve got so caught up in the process of carefully analyzing every idea that crosses paths with leftism, that an overarching sense of community was sacrificed for the sake of critique. A balance has been lost, one once commonplace. I believe this should be corrected or the last remaining integrity of the left will certainly perish. Thats the matter of ourselves. And with that settled, moving to what matters more: other working people.

In order for us to successfully persuade people into anarchist organizations, I propose that we need to follow a simple and careful procedure of condensing and connecting ideas to real-world current events which will effectively illustrate the problems and the solutions. The independently drawn-up illustrations of immense and complicated proportions in cinematic video essays and stylized publications have been coated in a left-centric aura that fogs the path for many people. It isn’t that a sudden revelation needs to be captured and dropped on every working person, its that the ideas need to be made accessible and connected to everyday experiences of exploitation and inequality. The ideas need to reveal themselves to working people with the subtle, case-by-case nudge of anti-capitalism, until that revelation can be reached, challenged, and understood. This is how many of us started out, and how I think we should aim to keep it going. For me, it was gradually reading The Conquest of Breadalongside working my first job in one of the most deplorable corporations in the world. Bit by bit, we began to understand.

Our aim must be for solidarity and agreement insofar that individuals have the same goal in mind for a stateless society, that they can fight side by side, honor a relationship of mutual aid, and reserve other disagreements for a civil and inclusive environment of free discussion.

That which we overwhelmingly agree on needs to be put first and foremost, mixed with a good dose of self-awareness and even humor at our own orthodoxies. The desperation to obsolesce capitalism and destroy fascism will not come easily with a fixed uprightness in each and every realm of life. A hearty laugh needs to be made when needed in a hilariously complex and worthless scenario. “This is my world, my life; and I decide what gets the better of me and what solidifies my humanity.”

The intimidation rightfully reserved for hardened reactionaries needs to be directed in the most opposite possible direction of newcomers. The list of burdens must be greatly reduced if not suspended to open the gate for all willing proletarians. We are, after all, seeking to bring the greatest possible number of workers into the anarchist community, and we really can’t expect each of our customs to resonate with people of varying educations, convictions and reasons for test-running the anarchist community. Reserving an anarchist organization only for those versed in theory and the other manifold implications is simply inverting the present exclusive jingoism in broader society we are so profoundly opposed to.

We shouldn’t view libertarian socialism as a ship to board with quotas and training need being met beforehand, transporting us to the communist promised land. It should be an ethos that molds to the pre-existing passions and traits of every individual with a heart for an equal society. It should possess a sense of simplicity and optimism that innately appeals to the downtrodden and desperate, as if the phrase they could distinctly feel in their heart but could not adequately proclaim. If we furthermore understand libertarian socialism as a lost friendship linking every and all living things with a lightheartedness in innocent differences not detrimental to the shared vision of the future, and apply this to our present affairs in organizing and informing, I think we have the greatest possible chance of moving on from desperately predetermining the most practical way of anarchy and finding the one crucial element in pursuing the admired historical ideals all along — that being unity.

If we already understand collective action to be what enriches individual autonomy, consequently I think we should know collective sympathy and steadfastness to be what will enrich individual might and compassion to prolong solidarity.

I ask that we resolve our ideals into the perfection of our community and commit to a practical motion of our convictions, that we celebrate our solidarity and camaraderie in all circumstances, and hone our anger into the insidious, smirking curse that is the reactionary capitalist foe.

Further Reading:


  • The Conquest of Bread, by Peter Kropotkin
  • Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, by Peter Kropotkin
  • God and the State, by Mikhail Bakunin
  • Statism and Anarchy, by Mikhail Bakunin
  • Grundrisse, by Karl Marx
  • The Accumulation of Capital, by Rosa Luxemburg
  • Reform or Revolution, by Rosa Luxemburg
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice, by Rudolph Rocker
  • Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
  • Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, by Noam Chomsky
  • Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, by Noam Chomsky
  • Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
  • Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, by Noam Chomsky
  • Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected Writings, by Subcomandante Marcos
  • Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, by David Graeber
  • War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • Death of the Liberal Class, by Chris Hedges
  • Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, by Chris Hedges



Social Anarchism Explained Simply