Thinking about Anarchism: Why would a political movement use the term anarchism?


The word anarchy has its’ origins in the Greek an-archos, meaning absence of a ruler. Since the mid-1800's, anarchism has developed as a definite political theory which aims to create a society without bosses and without authoritarian rule.People often question why a political movement would use the word anarchy at all, given its’ common associations with destruction and lawlessness. Well, perhaps some destruction is in order - for capitalism, for war and for empire, at whose hands both humans and our planet have suffered so heavily.

Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta challenged the idea that anarchy is the bogeyman those in power would have us believe: "[if you] convince the public that government is not necessary, but extremely harmful [then] the word 'anarchy,' precisely because it signifies 'without government,' will become equal to saying 'natural order, harmony of needs and interests of all, complete liberty within complete solidarity.'" When the Sunday Independent and Sky News use the word anarchy, it is to describe chaos and disorder. These mouthpieces of the rich could never imagine a world without strongman rulers and order imposed from above, aided by well-resourced police, courts and prisons. This message of the bosses hasn't always been lapped up as some kind of eternal truth.

At different times, in places as far apart as Mexico, Spain, Ukraine and Korea, the words anarchy and anarchism have carried very different associations. To millions of workers in these places, anarchism has meant organising for a world based on solidarity and mutual aid, for a world described by Rudolf Rocker as requiring "the abolition of economic monopolies and of all political and social coercive institutions within society". This would be a world where, instead of capitalism, we would have "a free association of all productive forces based upon cooperative labour, which would have for its sole purpose the satisfying of the necessary requirements of every member of society." For workers in countries where anarchism built strong bases, it became a liberating idea, something to be embraced and not at all a thing to be feared.

In recent years, here in Ireland, the Workers Solidarity Movement has endeavoured to build an acceptance that anarchism can be a force for freedom and equality. In Dublin and Cork, sustained anarchist participation in left organising and social movements has earned our ideas credibility and given us the chance to show the value of our politics in practice.

The absence of a ruler or a government or a monarch doesn't necessarily mean an absence of organisation, peace or equality. Indeed, true equality cannot be achieved as long as there are government and governed. Decisions in the hands of those directly involved and wealth in the hands of we who produce it - the working class; this is the change the world needs to see and it’s no quick or easy task. When all is said and done, you get judged on what you do and not on what you're called.