Friday, 10 April 2009

Anarchy: an exploration of alternatives to the status quo - November 29, 2007

Intro: I wrote this paper as a brief exploration of resistance models available to our nations. I have always found it difficult to navigate within the Indian Act band governments and if passed, a treaty government will still be an extension of this dependency that breeds corruption and works for the very Canadian governments that have and continue to support the theft of our lands and benefit directly from its exploitation. This should not read: lets devote more resources to 'economic development' in large scale exploitation of natural resources ourselves. Rather, we should focus our attention on realizing and strengthening our collective identity as Kwakwaka'wakw by actively discussing it within our communities, incorporating Western ideas that are a net-benefit to humans and the animal kingdom, while ignoring those that do not (heavy economic exploitation and disparate wealth distribution that favors the already rich and those in power). I sincerely hope it encourages debate on these alternatives.

This paper will briefly highlight the Anarchist critique of Statist forms of governance. Several examples will provide the Anarchist critique of Statism in all forms as well as the effectiveness of each argument. Kant will be used as an example of liberal-capitalist thought, which views the State as a necessary form of coercion to achieve the noble purpose of Perpetual Peace. Marxism will represent communist thought, which views the bourgeoisie as hindering the ultimate progress of man from a capitalist State to one of Communism. This revolution would first involve the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ but eventually would lead to a classless society ruled by the working classes.

Violence and coercion is central to all forms of State structures and based on the false foundation or ‘manufactured ‘consent of the people. Anarchy is opposed to the existence of the State altogether. The use of violence in revolution as advocated by leading Anarchists, however, should be avoided in favour of a more Prefigurative movement, which factors in the ends and means of its actions. During a violent revolution it will be difficult to decipher when the State and its underlying support have been defeated and since forms of domination and coercion will always challenge Anarchism, this could lead to perpetual war. The possibility of constant violence will drive people away from supporting Anarchism and endorsing it only serves to confirm State propaganda that frames the movement itself as a terrorist organization bent on violence and destruction. Another way must be found in which to resist coercive forces by taking the power from the State and returning it to the people. This will be viewed through its affects on Indigenous peoples of the world as they struggle for self determination under the oppressive States occupying their territories.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly rejecting the legitimacy of colonial governments and are returning to traditional forms of governance. Each nation has their own distinct governance structures which contain anarchistic tendencies, which can include minimally or non-coercive forms of governance, consensus models of decision-making and a profound respect for individual self-determination. History has shown that nation-States are structurally unable to change their coercive ways and accommodate Indigenous peoples on their own terms. Since violent revolution is morally wrong and also militarily unfeasible for most Indigenous peoples, alternative ways of reclaiming Indigenous self-determination must be explored. Ultimately, total non-violence may work for situations in which the majority of a country sympathizes and participates within the struggle, but it is arguable that the same does not apply to the world’s Indigenous peoples who, for the most part, find themselves the minority in their own lands. Since the main aim of the colonial State is the control of Indigenous lands, backed by the use of extreme force, complete non-violence would only seem to unfairly invite more suffering to already downtrodden peoples. It is from here that the Anarcha-Indigenist movement called Wasáse will be introduced as an alternative solution to the violent resistance found within Anarchist thought.

The Statist argument is that the historical development of man has brought us to our current position and the ultimate end-point, be it perpetual peace or communism, is the last step on man’s journey to enlightenment. Each claim their way of viewing the world, be it through man’s unsocial sociability or the bourgeoisie’s exploitation of proletariat labour, is the proper way of identifying all of history preceding them and the anticipated inevitability that follows. Anarchy works to expose the structural limitations the theories have placed themselves within. The immense diversity of group affiliations and self-identified nations seems to contradict any limitation or definition of a predetermined historical path, especially when limiting critical thought only to European nation-States. Rather, it seems to point to the immoral acts, backed by Euro-centric theories that assume there is a hierarchy of man placing them as a superior race of people, therefore giving them dominion over other nations. Ironically, these various States believed their crude actions were in the name of civilization.

Liberals believe there can be no freedom without the State and that everyone must give up some of their freedom in order to ensure protection under the law. For them the “only alternative to this pact is to be abandoned to a nasty, brutish, life of deadly competition over the means of bare subsistence.” Marxists see the State as a tool and the ultimate governance structure in which to seize power from the Bourgeoisie and thereby freeing the working class from its exploitation, but as the Anarchist critique goes, the new working class is only to become another ruling class with absolute powers over its population and history seems to proves this correct. Anarchists believe that freedom can only be realized by eliminating the State.

Capitalists support and protect the State’s institutions with the idea that change can happen from within. Kant believed that the State was instrumental to achieving Perpetual Peace. In order for mankind to realize this peace, he must make a “decision to renounce his brutish freedom and seek calm and security within a law-governed constitution.” Underlying this seemingly worthy goal of world peace is extreme coercion and domination of citizens by their States as well as the continuous disruption of nations outside of the State. These disruptions operate under the premise that Europeans have a duty to ‘civilize,’ which includes forced trade and commerce with subsidized industries, enslaving labour, and a heavy focus on individual liberty at the expense of community. In response to the resistance of these international ‘rights,’ States use force and coercion. This serves to enrich Western countries instead of the local economies based on self-reliance.

Kant argued that the State must treat its people as inherently bad or that there needs to be a level of coercion on all to ensure ‘freedom’ to all. These controls tend to favour the elite and ruling classes of society over others. Kant believed the State operates on the hypothetical consent of its citizens. That full agreement can never happen within a country; therefore, the legislators must create laws with an eye to what a fully rational man would consent to. This arbitrary use of power in the name of rationality, even when the people protest, is a dangerous use of power. Richard Day notes that “given the generative powers claimed for it, the state so conceived does not in fact give anything to its citizens; rather it takes away something that should be rather precious – their ability to govern their own lives.” Anarchists generally believe that people are inherently good and cooperative with each other and that the use of coercion must be proven to be for the common good of all people. When critiquing the liberal structure of governance within a representative government “Bakunin saw that the ‘representative system, far from being a guarantee for the people, on the contrary, creates and safeguards the continued existence of a governmental aristocracy against the people.’” This is despite the belief that liberals believe that this system, in which the vast majority delegates its power to a few people, is termed ‘democracy.’

Through sophisticated labour management techniques, the bourgeoisie are disintegrating the very class distinctions that gave it stability in earlier times, yet Marxists are still trying to call for class solidarity. So instead of creating real change from within State institutions, Marxist parties become just another voice fighting for the rights of workers, becoming an ineffectual counterbalance in western societies instead of a revolutionary force. Upon criticizing authoritarian socialism Bakunin states, “I am not a communist because communism concentrates all the powers of society and absorbs them into the State, because it leads inevitably to the centralization of property in the hands of the State, while I want to see the State abolished.” Despite objections by Marxists to the ‘top down’ criticism of revolution through a highly centralized structure, even with a temporary socialist government with elected officials or party members, the proven coercive consequences of such governmental powers within a segment of the population has lured previous socialists to support State oppression under the guise of socialist ideals. Lenin and Mao are not considered true socialists by Marxists, yet the pull of its theory towards these corrupted ends still bases its foundation within Marxism and must be addressed. Marxist theories have not yet been able to prevent the dictatorship of the proletariat from keeping the State’s coercion and control mechanisms in existence for its own privilege and survival.

The State relies on violence and coercion to achieve its ends. It should be noted that all three schools of thought presented advocate violence either in maintaining the State structures against threats or by use in revolution. Kant argued for the use of force when protecting the State’s institutions and Marx believed that violent revolution was the only way to commit real change within a country.

Kant expected State violence because of man’s ill disposition toward one another. Also the need to suppress citizens and colonies is just because if fully rational, he believed that these laws and coercion would be agreed to. Kant believed violent revolution or rebellion toward the head of State and therefore its laws, is morally reprehensible and punishable by death. He believed in the pacifying effects of the legal order, which he attributed to the attainment of Perpetual Peace. Kant argued against the use of force by rebellion because “it denies government the right to govern…therefore [it is] self-contradictory and renders the existence of the state impossible.” Ironically, this does not explain why generations of people have to suffer the consequences of unremitting war until Perpetual Peace is finally achieved. Kant believed that coercive laws are irresistible because if not through imposed laws the same effect would come from outside the state through war and it is in the citizen’s interest to obey laws instead of fighting in wars.

When the Marxist revolution replaces the Bourgeoisie with the ‘necessary dictatorship of the proletariat’ it automatically becomes the ruling elite through the extensive use of bureaucracy, which has a highly centralized form of control over its population. Engels argues “that force will perhaps be necessary for the overthrow of an economy based on exploitation — unfortunately, because all use of force demoralizes, he says, the person who uses it. And this in Germany, where a violent collision — which may, after all, be forced on the people — would at least have the advantage of wiping out the servility which has penetrated the nation's mentality.” This seems to position violence in a positive light, as if to say that with their immanent victory over the Bourgeoisie, their demoralized mental state will be addressed at the insignificant price of thousands of labour exploiters!

Anarchists that endorse violence believe the only way to eliminate the State is through its destruction. Anarchy opposes coercion, but the use of violence in revolution should be avoided. Instead consideration of the ends and means of the actions in revolutionary practice should be explored. In the face of consistent Statist pressures, Anarchists will require constant defense against military attacks and coercive tactics by the State. Ambiguity is abound when using violence as self-defense because there is no distinguishing characteristic in the heat of battle when self-defense turns into an ‘eye for an eye’, which Gandhi famously replies, ‘makes the whole world blind.’ Once people start using violence it becomes very difficult to stop because violence leads to more violence and Anarchists will have a hard time deciphering whether the opposing powers are coercive or a legitimate threat in maintaining security. Since Anarchy is anti-State, it follows that the basic tenet of the State, that of violence, should be opposed as well. By advocating violence, the Anarchist movement may be in danger of becoming the very evil it is fighting against. To prove that man can work together for the common good or the ‘mutual aid’ of one another, it would be contradictory to achieve these ends by means of violence. Also, it would be easy for the State to counter a violent Anarchist revolution if attacked because the people would be easily convinced that the only way to guarantee protection against the unknown, the Anarchist terrorists, is if they got behind its military might. With the world’s Indigenous peoples still internally colonized within States, a new approach that rids them of the oppressive actions and opposing worldviews needs to be explored.

An Indigenous approach to resisting the State through a form of non-violence will be shown through Taiaiake Alfred’s Wasáse, a movement that combines elements of anarchistic theories with Indigenous ways of being. There is a growing resistance to the internal colonization of Indigenous peoples. Taiaiake’s movement is built upon a spiritual foundation that can set communities free from the State’s subtle but pervasive attacks on Indigenous identities. This emerging movement has “found common ground in the rejection of arbitrary authority, a preference for direct action and local, consensus-based decision-making processes, and the use of non-statist federations to link communities and nations.” This mode of resistance is imperative to any long term success and survival of Indigenous peoples.
According to Taiaiake, “being Indigenous means thinking, speaking and acting with the conscious intent of regenerating one’s indigeniety.” It is important to rebuild a strong sense of community identity before addressing the oppressive colonial State. Without this Indigenous peoples are “building not on a spiritual and cultural foundation provided to us as the heritage of our nations, but on the weakened and severely damaged cultural and spiritual and social results of colonialism.” Alfred advocates focusing Indigenous resources to rebuild and strengthen our own communities.

Based on moral principles of traditional teachings, Indigenous peoples need to challenge the State and assert their rights, instead of depending on the State to grant them. This can be done by creating cultural space free from State interference. This space from State domination can be conceptualized by Hakim Bey’s theory of Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ). The TAZ theory concerns itself with the temporary space created by its participants who are free from the domination of State control and interaction. The TAZ model of social change does have its limitations when applied to Indigenous struggles; the obvious being the explicit non-permanence of Bey’s theory contrasts with Indigenous peoples’ intimate connection to their territories and because “an indigenous anarchism is an anarchism of place,” it demands a more lasting presence within this theoretical framework. To escape the State’s determined targeted destruction of any autonomous space that withdraws power from the neoliberal order, total non-violent permanence is a current improbability that must be addressed. Day criticizes Bey’s TAZ applicability to identity groups, stating that perhaps it is “a little too reliant upon what seems to be an ethos of fleeting, individualistic encounters…amenable to young White men with no attachments to such banalities as partners, children or broader communities.” Day expands on the TAZ concept through the Semi-Permanent Autonomous Zone (SPAZ), which “allows the construction of non-hegemonic alternatives to the neoliberal order here and now, with an eye to surviving the dangers of capture, exploitation and division, inevitably arising from within and being imposed from without.” Being Indigenous here and now is a central component of Wasáse and creating space free from State domination allows Indigenous communities to build a strong sense of identity long distorted by colonial regimes. This move will be opposed by the State and, since Indigenous peoples are deeply connected to their land, will need to be defended when challenged.

Since the space free from State coercion is minimal, Wasáse must work to challenge the State’s claim to legitimacy. This is done through active resistance, but not through the aggressive use of violence. Taiaiake terms this approach “non-violent militancy” which he calls for during the process of decolonization. He argues that “revolutionary struggles using direct armed confrontation have failed to stop capitalism’s expansion.” He further argues against the use of violent resistance by pointing out that [v]iolence forces people to choose sides, and because it is repugnant to so many people, it causes them to disavow the cause; it limits potential allies; and it is as addictive as a drug – its immediacy and paraphernalia are seductive and intoxicating in the short term, and in the long term, the inevitable cycle of repression creates a situation justifying further violence.” The negative consequences of violence cause too much damage to Indigenous communities to make it worth engaging in the first place, but the moral imperative of culturally strong nations will also force Indigenous warriors to address their actions.

When analyzing violence that causes suffering as morally wrong Taiaiake points out that “the responsibility for violence begins and ends with the state, not with the people who are challenging the inherent injustices perpetrated by the state and who are seeking to alleviate their own present suffering under the state’s existing institutions and practices.” Through this ‘non-violent militancy’ Taiaiake advocates the resistance of the authority of the State’s institutions, through non-cooperation and challenging the legitimacy of the State itself through Gandhian tactics such as “civil disobedience, boycotts, strikes, sit-downs, and sit-ins of all kinds, protest marches, and rallies.” Although acknowledging Gandhi’s circumstances were different, Taiaiake nevertheless advocates Gandhian tactics in Indigenous resistance.

Perhaps where his military training kicks in however, is when he argues that taking up arms is ‘certainly necessary, only because we must protect ourselves from violent attack and survive in a physical sense, but we should have faith in the power of our ideas and in our abilities to communicate our ideas without resorting to the mute force of violence…” It matters how violence is approached. It should be used as a last resort to the defense of physical survival and never before. The non-violence approach should be central in the movement’s contention of State legitimacy and its authority.

Anarchy effectively challenges the coercion and existence of the State. It highlights the arbitrary use of its power to force its own citizens to obey laws skewed in favour of the ruling elite. Kantian ideals of strengthening and seeing the State as the only vehicle in which to achieve a higher purpose, that of Perpetual Peace, has proven to be a fundamentally flawed perspective based within a limited Eurocentric superiority complex suffered by so many ‘enlightened’ scholars before him. Marx also tried to encapsulate his theory within a historical framework. He believed that the only way to free the working class from their exploitation is to band together and overthrow the ruling elites. Unfortunately, Marx believed that the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was an effective vehicle to achieve a classless society. In reality, the State itself corrupts any ruling group with the amount of power it possesses. This is especially true of the highly centralized Communist State. Anarchy is free from these bonds with its theoretical framework, but has its challenges to overcome.

Despite Kant, Marx and the Anarchists Bakunin, Proudhon and Kropotkin advocating violence as a means, modern theorists increasing have looked into non-violence as a viable means of resistance for their cause. None of the previously mentioned theorists could have imagined the huge success in the mobilization of India’s population against the mighty British Empire through non-violent resistance. By utilizing Gandhian approaches, Taiaiake advocates Wasáse, an Anarcha-Indigenist movement aimed at ridding Indigenous peoples of their oppressed circumstances. The exploration of answers within the system has been exhausted to no real end; rather we have seen a further entrenchment of peoples within an oppressive system. Movements like Wasáse offer realistic hope to nations looking for an alternative to the status quo. Through non-violent contention, these Indigenous nations may be able to find a way of effectively resisting the colonial State and free themselves from oppression. A path toward freedom based on their own collective self-determination.

Bibliography (Footnotes in original):

Alfred, Taiaiake and Jeff Corntassel. Being Indigenous: resurgences against contemporary colonialism, Blackwell Publishing: MA, 2005.

Alfred, Taiaiake, Glen Coulthard, and Deborah Simmons eds. New Socialist: Special Issue on Indigenous Resurgence. No. 58, 2006, 26-7.

Alfred, Taiaiake. Wasáse: Indigenous pathways of action and freedom. Broadview Press, 2005.

Andrew. “The Zapatistas, anarchism and ‘direct democracy.’” Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, (1999), 27 .

Aragorn!, “Locating An Indigenous Anarchism” .

Chomsky, Noam. “An Exchange on Manufacturing Consent.” In Understanding Power. The New Press, 2002.

Couch, Jen. “Imagining Zapatismo: The Anti-Globalization Movement and the Zapatistas”, Communal/Plural. 9:2, 2001, 243-260.

Day, Richard. Gramsci is dead: anarchist currents in the newest social movements, London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press; Toronto: Between the Lines, 2005.

Guerin, Daniel. Anarchism, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1970.

Humphrey, Ted. Kant Perpetual Peace and other essays, Hackett, Cambridge, 1983.

Kant, Immanuel, and Hans Siegbert Reiss. Kant: Political Writings. 2nd, enl. ed. Cambridge England; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Kropotkin, Peter. Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution, 1902.

Malatesta, Errico. Life an Ideas, 142.

McLellan, David. “Marx to Weydemeyer, 5 March 1852.” Karl Marx selected writings.

Mohandas Karamchand, Gandhi. My Experiments with Truth – the autobiography of Gandhi.