I thought this might be a good first post. It’ll let you know what you’re in for.
At best, Anarchism is a circle-A watermark in the left corner of every page of the rough draft of a manifesto that is continually being rewritten. Some Anarchists are more dogmatic, or classical than others, but to claim that these groups sticking to “traditional” Anarchism are the spokespeople for the entirety of the movement is just silly.
That said, Anarchism is not simply a meaningless, arbitrary word that means just anything. The fact that as a signifier the word ‘Anarchism’ has floated around from group to group does not make it any less meaningful than any other word. There seem to be recurring themes throughout Anarchist history that all factions and allies have discussed.
The first self-described Anarchist, P.J. Proudhon, also coined the term Mutual Aid. The term is hardly very descriptive, in that it does little more than allude to a notion of reciprocity and equity if not equality, and it can barely be said to lay out any real skeleton of what or how an Anarchist society should function. However, there is a nice ring to it, the notion of two parties acting in an actually mutually beneficial manner.
This word has been flying around the labor movement forever, and of course with the growth of syndicalist unions in the early 20th and late 19th centuries, it seeped into the Anarchist lexicon as well. A notion of solidarity has, luckily, escaped the confines of the labor movement and entered into the political antagonist movement as a whole. Solidarity is no longer just a sentiment to be shared between workers, but between all oppressed people.
In order to be taken more seriously in the face of media caricatures of bomb-throwing hooligans, many Anarchists have called themselves ‘anti-authoritarian.’ I like this word. I like it because it only demarcates what one is not. It leaves an entire world of possibilities open, all of which are equally anti-authoritarian. It also permeates beyond the political realm and becomes a relevant term in the discussion of economics, sociology, and ecology to name a few.
What all these words have in common is that they are essentially open-ended. While we all may have notions of what they all mean, they have no real meaning until they are read and reciprocated by an audience. In terms of actualizing an Anarchist society, all these themes are essentially meaningless until acted upon. They are ours to create and learn from. We need not simply look to the Anarchists of the past to define the present, but we can take the present to define the future.
Anarchism is not just the belief that all rulers ought to be done away with in favor of individual and collective cooperation and freedom, but that individual and collective cooperation and freedom are the things that make the world as we know it.
TL;DR: Anarchism is opposition to hierarchy and oppression in all parts of society including the political, social, and economic realm, to name a few.