Response To Remarks On Anarchism By Narendra Modi

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In January, during a poll address, India’s Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, in reference to Mr Arvind Kejriwal said, “Have you ever seen a political leader calling himself an anarchist? If so, join the Naxals. Naxalism cannot be brought to Delhi. Delhi can’t be surrendered to anarchy”. I will be examining and responding to this from a Libertarian-Socialist perspective.

First problem with this remark seems to be that it does not provide us with any background what so ever about Anarchism. What it is and what Anarchists believe, and as matters relating to anarchism are quite deliberately driven out of mainstream culture, it is easy to mystify and distort its meaning. Also as we will see that anarchism has many variants and this attack does not even provide us any clue as to which school of thought within anarchism Mr Kejriwal associates himself with. And as I tried to find out for myself what type of anarchist Mr Kejriwal might be, I soon realized he never made that clear (in interviews). I confess I have not yet read his book ‘Swaraj’, which should be the basic text for understanding his philosophy. But I’ll nonetheless try to examine his anarchism on the basis that it derives from pseudo-anarchist theory and even more so superficial practices of Mohandas Gandhi, who himself derived it from the works of Christian-Anarchist Leo Tolstoy, Thoreau and Chinese and other anarchist movements that were taking place at the time. And also Pacifism which is not exclusive to any particular anarchist philosophy but varies in practice from person to person and situation to situation.

Mr Kejriwal is a member of a political party and an electoral candidate (and now the Chief Minister of Delhi). Anarchists are exclusively against parliamentary government as a form of action for social change (the only exception to this that I can remember are four anarchists who joined the Marxist party [PCE] and the central government during Spanish revolution in 1937). It should be understood that there are no doctrines within anarchism, therefore, Mr Kejriwal can very well be an anarchist and be an electoral candidate, which evidently seems to be the case. But I don’t see him supporting Trade Unions or utilizing any other form of anarchist methods. I therefore doubt him being an anarchist, at least not an Anarcho-Syndicalist. And as for his stance on capitalism and neo-liberal policies, they are not very clear as well. As anarchists are very critical of and hostile towards it, his clear views would have been helpful. Yesterday, while addressing his supporters after his victory in Delhi elections he proposed that “Rich and Poor in Delhi will develop together”. He does not even seem to be conscious of the class conflict. He also proposes “women empowerment” by first empowering highly authoritarian and centralized Police forces and increasing surveillance on general population. An anarchist would have rather preferred educating women and men on feminist and sex studies and providing women with means by which they can defend themselves, instead of making them dependent on police force. And more centralization of power and police control is counterproductive to any democracy and for anarchist any cause as well. Hence, it is very improper to portray what Mr Kejriwal is doing as anything “anarchist”.

Second and maybe the most important point in this post – Naxalites are NOT Anarchists. Naxalites are Maoist-Communist guerrilla , which is a fragment of Maoist Communism (movement), which in itself is very different and contradictory to any Libertarian Communist belief like Council Communism, of that of thinkers and activists, like Anton Pannekoek and Rosa Luxemburg. Anarchists oppose all sort of statist, authoritarian forms of Communisms like Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, even more severally than we oppose representative democracy, as the latter is comparatively freer and desirable than any of the totalitarian State-Capitalism that call themselves communisms. The only similarity one can draw from Anarchism and Naxalism is they both are anti-capitalist in nature and oppose the state, but the alternative which both favor and the means by which they chose to bring the change about are polar-opposites.

Where Naxalites employ the use of violence and terror on the state and on civilians to remove the free market with state control over economy and representative democracy with totalitarianism. Anarchist favor trade unionism, peasants and workers movement, creating alternative economies to replace state control with federations of freely associating communes and capitalism with gift economies, participatory economies, mutualist markets etc. The difference between Anarchism and Naxalism is much more stark than that between the state and naxalists as both favor violence when population goes against their will.

I think it will be appropriate to draw out some of the key points on which anarchist and all Marxist traditions diverge. Both traditions emerge out of Workers movements and Socialist movements of 18th century. And both were part of the First International (International Workingmen’s Association) in late 1800s, where Marx was a leading figure. But soon the differences in strategy and aims grew deeper, where Marxist suggested a vanguard party should be at the front of revolution of emancipating the workers (it’s worth remembering that it was Marx who said “only workers can emancipate themselves”, but well…), the anarchists suggested the state and capitalism can only be abolished at the same time as state is very capitalistic in nature and the power of the state is corrupting. As Bakunin said, “Take the most radical of revolutionaries and place him on the throne of all the Russia or give him dictatorial powers . . . and before the year is out he will be worse than the Czar himself.” And either the State must be destroyed or one must “reconcile oneself to the vilest and most dangerous lie of our century….Red Bureaucracy.”
Some anarchists withdrew from the International while some were kicked out. Bakunin’s prophecy of red bureaucracy came true. Spanish revolution (a popular and widespread anarchist revolution) was crushed by combined forces of Fascists, Communists and Liberal democracies. In Russia Anarchists were killed as the Bolsheviks took power. It is quite clear that Marxists and Anarchists are not the same, neither believes in actions.

So the remark,” Naxalism cannot be brought to Delhi. Delhi can’t be surrendered to anarchy” is very misleading and aims to distort and provide a very violent image of Anarchism, at the same time belittling its radical yet humanist roots by associating it with Mr Kejriwal. I can almost appreciate the ingenuity of this propaganda. But in an already hellish environment for activists and social critics in this country, where student movements and activists groups are harassed and violently assaulted on regular basis (see [1][2][3][4][5]), labeling Anarchists as Naxalists and hence bringing them directly under the radar of Operation Greenhunt is devastating and, to me personally, threatening.

My appeal here is not to Mr Modi or Mr Kejriwal, but to the citizens of this country. It is something to be proud of, I guess, about this country that mass consensus still has some effect in decision making (at least when it comes to matters of Supreme Court) but this force can as easily be used by the state, which I would argue is the case, to form consensus based on misinformation and distortions and invoking nationalism and patriotism to repress the part of the population which does not agree with it. It is very crucial that the population has a clear understanding of the topics when the state (and corporations), for its own interest, want to keep them delusional about them, topics like alternative politics and economic theories like anarchism. When quite literally lives of activists depends on it.

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Libertarian-Socialist Rant

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Disclaimer: This article is not for folks who shout “No! NO! I don’t wanna believe!” whenever they see words like “class interests” or “socialism” or  “environment-is-not-an-externality-you-dumbass”. Or for folks who indulge themselves in business theories or neoclassical economics to understand the ‘nature’ of socioeconomic relations.

I wanna begin with PR and educational system (..again), but this time with an intention of igniting a metaphysical rebellion (..maybe). For those who landed on earth today, well you see, we have highly authoritarian institutes which dumb down the population by crushing elements of critical thinking and emphasizing on senseless competition within peers for grades or a pat on the head and by utilizing all the knowledge of behavioural sciences, they create obedient, confused, self-loathing individuals, and I hope you enjoy your stay here. Ok. Ok. Some sort of education does happen in midst of all this because the confused individuals are then required to push levers, create programs, build dams, all on direct order from the employer. And it is all very efficient I must say and important for the people in power, like Edward Bernays said,

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”

And the six basic functions of school outlined by Inglis. Other than education system of orthodox indoctrination there are also social, political and media apparatus to limit the discussion and keep public opinion in check.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” – Noam Chomsky

[Maybe some day I'll write an article without quoting either Orwell or Chomsky but today is not that day]

Alfie Kohn explains how to prevent social change:
1. Limit Your Vision – Ignoring that social structure or hierarchy has anything to do with drastic economic inequality or pollution or climate change or nuclear weapons or terrorism etc and instead believing that everything should be done on individual level.
2. Adapt – To keep the status quo intact, people should be adjusted to serve its needs. Instead of the other way round. The premise is, you should adjust to the conditions as you find without thinking about the nature of those structures.
3. Think About Yourself –  You should be only concerned about your well being, groom yourself and let the rest of the world go on its way.
4. Be ‘realistic’ – “Like it or not, that’s just the way it is”. These protestation of powerlessness are very useful, every person who takes such as stance is a person rescued from social activism. And labeling people ‘Idealistic” ensures they are not taken seriously.
5. Rationalize – Proposing insignificant reforms that never come close of changing the structures themselves.

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Similar to a modern day commodity these ideologies and actions are camouflaged by theological and metaphysical niceties and its presence reflects an invisible transcendence and hence you do not see the dictatorship in democracy. Illusions can be powerful, liberation can be painful, like Wachowski Brothers Matrix or like people from the Allegory of the Cave, “…most of these people are not ready to be unplugged, Neo” said Socrates.  Exploiting Dunning-Kruger effect, Herd behavior or any other heuristics or cognitive biases they ‘ll deceive you, and I am not just talking about the marketing people here, the guy who wants to sell you more toothpastes, but also the people who want to sell you the idea of a new politician, who when I think about it happens to be the same people.

Even when you have escaped the Evil Demon of Descartes in this sense, you may feel powerless because of the Alfie Kohn argument or you might in the face of the facts go on acting as if there is no matrix, that the interests of the bosses are similar to that of the workers, or the representative democracy could work we just need better rules etc etc etc. Like people, for example, who acknowledge global warming is real and harmful and needs to be stopped somehow but act as if there is no global warming because:
1. They do not see the effects of global warming as they step out of there houses directly.
2. They actually cannot do anything practically alone. They need to organize.

Why did I say representative democracy fails? Read this by Iain McKay.

So, Yes, Organize! Organize fellow citizens, don’t look up to the well-to-do upper classes for support or cues, even though they too need to fight against the oppressive institutes that torment the whole of humanity and the planet at large. But their short term interests blind them. Organize! Don’t expect charity that entertains the poverty, instead eradicate the systems that generates it. Organize! For a better, just, classless society. Organize for yourself! Organize for the globe!

Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition.

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Political and religious ideologies propagate in a similar fashion. Most people believe in a government or priesthood because they are brought up in a social structure that favors having similar beliefs. Whether they are rational and moral or not is irrelevant. Others believe in them because they believe it is the only option they have. No matter what form of governmentalist you are – democratic, monarchical, aristocrat or any other, the basic premise is the same – faith in an authoritarian figure or institution. President, Zeus, State or the Church. Some argue that humans are not capable of living without some form of authority to look over them. So they form a government loosely based on votes of same non reliable mass.

Other governmentalists argue, “If anarchy is so great why isn’t there any anarchist nation?” I see this as a half ass-ed version of “You cannot prove there is no god, hence there is one”. Actually there are many examples of successful free societies, in recent history; Paris in the late 19th century, Spain and Greece. But ask yourself, can they last? Can powerful militant empires have examples of a better alternatives when they threaten their existence. (They were all destroyed by major military operations and coups).

And government fanatics like these are the very reason why there are no anarchist societies. For the same reason, India is still not a secular nation even in this age of rationality. These people are scared of responsibility and reality. They themselves help create the  complex economic, political and social structures that suck every drop of life from their existence. They submit to god, to government.

Essentially they are same people who cheered for Chancellor Hitler as he ordered mass killing of Jews, who supported wars in Vietnam and Iraq, who let thousands of species go extinct, who want bombs in there backyards because of their never ending irrational fears. They support it just by not opposing it. You can only be for war or against it, there is no middle ground. “You cannot be neutral in a moving train” (Howard Zinn)

Worst part of this whole deal is that these people are not satisfied by being suppressed alone, they want their neighbors and everyone else to be ruled over as well, unreasonably taxed by their rituals like elections. It’s a taboo to talk ill of elections no matter how screwed up it is. No matter who gets majority of the votes the winner is always the ruling class and the business class. Try as hard you can to make yourself believe that these classes have interests of masses at heart. But I know you know better.

If you like and want to be ruled over, kept in sight, spied, inspected, directed, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured and turned slave in body and mind… please do so. But for the sake of your god, the government should leave the people who don’t wanna be part of it alone. People who want to live their life on their own, mind their own business, exercise their own talents, pursue their own dreams, try to be what they believe they should be. I, myself, will not resign my conscience to some holy book, the legislature or the constitution, why then everyone has a conscience?

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I often hear, ‘anarchy’ and ‘chaos’ being used as synonyms. The people who do so either have no knowledge about the field or they do it willingly to misrepresent it. In many cases they are individuals with some form of authority or at least someone to whom people listen to.  I admit there have been incidences where someone calling themselves an anarchist has engaged in some form of violence against his fellow human. (Cases where anarchists use violence against cops or military forces has always been for self defense. And in all cases they have had no fatally harmful weapons. And damaging a McDonalds or Nike store cannot be considered violence against any human or nature). That being said, there are always people who think that violence can be justified in some weird way, be that a Hindu terrorist, Muslim terrorist , Maoist, Fascist, State army or police. But no one can come close to the amount of atrocity committed by the state – wars, state sponsored terrorist acts and so on. If your notion is that when a government kills, it is justifiable, then you are a fanatic.

I have never come across a single case of an anarchist killing an innocent civilian. There are cases where they have targeted businessmen or politicians but those cases don’t even reach in double digits. So if you are looking for synonym for “chaos”, “state” will be a better option.

It might be a good time to talk about few other misconceptions regarding anarchism. We don’t make bombs. We organize workers unions, support their struggles, 8 hour work days, anarchists fought for it, paid sick days, anarchists fought for it. Equal rights for women, blacks, immigrants, minority indigenous people, Against wars, Against nukes, Against fascism, Against structural adjustment policies of IMF. We are also not a bunch of school dropout uneducated people. Kropotkin (Geologist, Evolutionary biologist) Proudhon (Economist), David Graeber (anthropologist), Noam Chomsky (Linguists), Howard Zinn (Historian), just to name a few.

But this doesn’t mean they are/were superior individuals (Well they are in some fields though!), but what is and will always remain important is what anarchism stands for:

Fight on the side of the oppressed in every domain of life, from family, to culture, to state, to economy, to the now very visible international arena of “globalization,” and to do so in creative and courageous ways – Michael Albert

200 Years Of The Black Flag

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Although there are dark imprints of Anarchist thoughts in Chinese philosophy of Zhuang Zhou, and in works of Roman philosophers (Christian Anarchists), there is no doubt that Anarchism started taking shape from the Enlightenment eras of late 17th century, with basic idea of questioning authority as it is not self-justifiable. Then it grew stronger with socialist movements and class struggles of 19th century. Marxism and Anarchism , for most part of history, have not been happy. But they have definitely helped shape each other, drawing broader lines between ‘centralists’ and ‘federalists’ within Marxism. This was a very interesting period,  as it started with Marx criticizing Proudhon’ economic theory (1847, The Poverty of Philosophy). In 1860’s, Michail Bakunin took place of Proudhon as Marx’s Anarchist opponent.

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 Michail Bakunin was born on this date 200 years ago (30 May 1814), a prominent Atheist and Anarchist.

“The liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been externally imposed upon him by any extrinsic will whatever, divine or human, collective or individual.”

Bakunin argued that there was a good amount of truth in Marx’s criticism of Proudhon. But he also pointed out the limits of Marx’s own theory. Bakunin and fellow Federalist socialists and Anarchists rejected the idea of a revolutionary government. Marx believed that Government can be changed by the change of party, and if a communist party takes over, it will end the class struggle and make a proletarian dictatorship. In response Bakunin wrote,

“[Marx] holds that the political condition of each country is always the product and the faithful expression of it’s economical situation… He takes no account of other factors in history, such as the present political, juridical and religious institutions on the economic situation. He says “Poverty produces political slavery, the State”, but he does not allow this expression to be turned around, to say:”Political slavery, the State, reproduces in its turn and maintains poverty as a condition for its own existence; so that to destroy poverty. it is necessary to destroy the State”

 There is much truth in this expression. The neo-liberal economical practices and the conditions which it renders in present day maintain poverty, poor working conditions, orthodox education system , extremist religious militants and corporate tyrannies. A recent example:

‘Saint Alan’ [Greenspan]: ““That’s a very healthy thing, because if workers are insecure, they’re not going to ask for benefits, they’re not going to strike, they’re not going to call for an increase in wages.”

There has been a split in Socialists since the Bolshevik (October) Revolution all over the world, which turned bloody for Russia in a way similar to Chinese Cultural Revolution in some respects and made the Red Flag something to be feared. But let us not forget that Stalin and Mao were never federalists, they were the result of what Bakunin called the ‘Red Bureaucracy’. In recent times Anarchists of the New-Left have also given up on the Class Struggle, which lacks future commitment for any cause, for example the LGBT movements. They are very important, but even after everyone has been granted equal rights, there will be no change in the form of operation.

The Red and Black Flags have been successful in creating the living utopia in Spain (1936), Cuba, Venezuela, Algeria, and some were short-lived not because of insufficiency but because of military coups. Anarchism and Socialism are meant to go hand in hand, and one is not bound to use their slogans or flags. But the present dark ages of economic, corporate and state dictatorship can only be brought to an end by “Stateless Socialism: Anarchism” (Bakunin)

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Two hundred years ago a legend was born, and his ideas are most relevant today. It’s a call for all the Anarchists in India and around the world to organize, occupy streets, let your presence be known, fight against operation, most importantly disobey. A new world is possible only if we start building it today.

“We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.”

“Man becomes conscious of himself and his humanity only in society and only by the collective action of the whole society”