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Debate: Anarchism

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Is Anarchism a valuable political ideology?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Richard Mott. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

On 1st May 2000, the London May Day Carnival against Capitalism, a peaceful demonstration against capitalism, turned into a riot that led to the defacing of the Cenotaph and millions of pounds worth of damage to City buildings. Similar violence has been seen at other large-scale anti-capitalism protests, such as at the World Trade Organisation’s talks in Seattle. In these circumstances, people have come to question the rhetoric and claims of the anarchists. So is anarchism a defensible policy ? Can it be supported both in theory and in practice?

Argument #1

Yes

Anarchism is essentially a fight for human freedom. Modern states, even those which claim to be democracies, stifle their citizens with oppressive and artificial machinery such as laws and taxes. These are imposed by the people who run the state - the elites, the governing classes. Anarchists believe it is better to live without such controls imposed by such people. This does not mean they stand for complete chaos though; they support co-operation and barter between individuals as profitable. Only without controls can humans truly live naturally and freely.

No

Anarchism is marked by exactly this sort of utopian, unrealistic argument - a diatribe based on the principle that the grass is always greener on the other side. Far from freeing humans, anarchy allow them to be dominated by primitive forces that a controlling state has eliminated, such as the use of physical force by the strong to oppress the weak. Laws and a police force are necessary to prevent this. What is more, a state allows industries to be organised and crops to be grown so as to support its citizens, and without these high-intensity techniques there is no way that all the population could be fed. All advances in art and science have been made possible by a state that brings people and resources together. Anarchism is merely a backward and dreamy approach to serious political matters.

Argument #2

Yes

Anarchists believe in a classless society. Modern democracies are divided into classes that continually fight each other; states have created barriers between men that cause hatred and misery. Anarchy removes these barriers, by removing the apparatus that makes economic subjection of others possible.

No

This is impossible. Some men and women achieve dominance over others due to natural intelligence, skill, cunning, attractiveness or any other advantage. This is nothing to do with a state, and anarchism would not make everyone equal.

Argument #3

Yes

States also repress their citizens by removing their ability to govern themselves. Most ‘democracies’ are in fact nothing of the sort; is a general election every 5 years really fully representative of individual’s opinions ? The existence of ‘spin-doctors’ and other such practices shows how governments are misleading the people, not being controlled by them.

No

Granted, there are many problems with democracy. But these can all be solved within the state structure, by devolving power downwards into regional government, and by holding more frequent referenda. There is no need to do away with the state altogether.

Argument #4

Yes

Anarchism has nothing to do with violent organisations that hijack anarchist events for their own reasons. The vast majority are peaceable protesters who would never use violence, and it is lowering the tone of the debate to try and condemn anarchism by association in this way. Anarchism is a viable and fair way of life, that allows humans to live and interact naturally, without a Big Brother controlling us.

No

As can clearly be seen from recent violent act, such as the May Day riots, anarchy is largely a front for organised terrorists gangs and violence-seeking thugs. Their activities are also cover for other civil trouble-makers, such as violent animal rights activists. Their calls for ‘pacifism’ belie their true nature, and their arguments smack of dangerous utopianism. Anarchists seek to subvert all the advances made my mankind over the last millennium.

References

Motions

  • This House believes that anarchy rules
  • This House would bring down the state

See also on Debatepedia:

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