Saturday, October 5, 2013

No, Elizabeth Warren and Harry Reid, Republicans aren't Anarchists

Last week, with the government shutdown looming, Harry Reid referred to the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party as "anarchists":
Senate Democrats have shown that we are willing to debate and vote on a wide range of issues, including efforts to improve the Affordable Care Act. We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.
Today, Elizabeth Waren sent out an email with a subject line "We are not a nation of anarchists":
If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you'd think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn't exist at all.

But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don't want a future without government.
When was the last time the anarchy gang called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children's toys? Or for inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria? Or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in our babies?

When? Never. In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens.
Do they even know what "anarchism" is? Because Republicans are certainly not the philosophical and intellectual descendants of folks like Prince Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Dorothy Day.

Prince Kropotkin's beard does not like it when you associate him with Republicans.

Neither does Leo Tolstoy's beard.

Dorothy Day is not laughing.

Sacco and Vanzetti are laughing hysterically that you are associating them with Republicans.

I think our political class needs to sit down and have a lesson on 19th and 20th century political philosophies/ideologies. No, Republicans, Obama is not a socialist. He is not seeking to nationalize the means of production or (heaven forbid!) turn it over to co-operative management. No, Democrats, Republicans are not anarchists. They are not advocating a stateless society based on non-hierarchical free associations. Such a lesson can also cover the contrast between social liberalism, social democracy, and democratic socialism on the left and classical liberalism, liberal conservatism, and conservative liberalism on the right. Communism and fascism should also be discussed.

But, returning back to the matter, what's anarchism?

Here's how (Prince) Peter Kropotkin, a prominent 19th century Russian anarcho-communist, explained "anarchism" in his entry in the 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica:
ANARCHISM (from the Gr. av-, and apxi?, contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government — harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international — temporary or more or less permanent — for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary — as is seen in organic life at large — harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the state.

If, it is contended, society were organized on these principles, man would not be limited in the free exercise of his powers in productive work by a capitalist monopoly, maintained by the state; nor would he be limited in the exercise of his will by a fear of punishment, or by obedience towards individuals or metaphysical entities, which both lead to depression of initiative and servility of mind. He would be guided in his actions by his own understanding, which necessarily would bear the impression of a free action and reaction between his own self and the ethical conceptions of his surroundings. Man would thus be enabled to obtain the full development of all his faculties, intellectual, artistic and moral, without being hampered by overwork for the monopolists, or by the servility and inertia of mind of the great number. He would thus be able to reach full individualization, which is not possible either under the present system of individualism, or under any system of state- socialism in the so-called Volkstaat (popular state).
As to their economical conceptions, the Anarchists, in common with all Socialists, of whom they constitute the left wing, maintain that the now prevailing system of private ownership in land, and our capitalist production for the sake of profits, represent a monopoly which runs against both the principles of justice and the dictates of utility. They are the main obstacle which prevents the successes of modern technics from being brought into the service of all, so as to produce general well-being. The Anarchists consider the wage-system and capitalist production altogether as an obstacle to progress. But they point out also that the state was, and continues to be, the chief instrument for permitting the few to monopolize the land, and the capitalists to appropriate for themselves a quite disproportionate share of the yearly accumulated surplus of production. Consequently, while combating the present monopolization of land, and capitalism altogether, the Anarchists combat with the same energy the state, as the main support of that system. Not this or that special form, but the state altogether, whether it be a monarchy or even a republic governed by means of the referendum.
(Emphasis added) 

Anarchism and conservatism are fundamentally at odds with each other. Conservatism seeks to preserve the hierarchies embedded in traditional social institutions: the patriarchal family, the church, the corporation, the military, the state, and the international sphere. Conservatism is not anti-statist or anti-government; rather, conservatism opposes efforts by the state to interfere with the hierarchies of the various social institutions. Correspondingly, conservatism supports the use of the state to enforce these hierarchies--by force if necessary. Anarchism, on the contrary, is firmly anti-statist, rejecting both the hierarchy of social institutions and the legitimacy and authority of the institutions themselves---and seeking to destroy them.

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