CARSON, Kevin A. "A ’Political’ Program for Anarchists"

State and statismPoliticsCARSON, Kevin A.

In On Community, a recent pamphlet on Gustav Landauer, Larry Gambone suggested the need for an "antipolitical movement" to dismantle the state, in order to eliminate obstacles to non-statist alternatives. It was no longer possible, he argued, merely to act outside the state framework while treating it as irrelevant. To do so entailed the risk that "you might end up like the folks at Waco." In an earlier work, Sane Anarchy, he suggested a few items for the agenda of such a movement. I now submit a list of my own (after a few pages of preferatory comment), as a basis for discussion.

Many anarchists oppose in principle such use of the political process for anarchist ends. It is unethical, they say, for anarchists to participate in the political process. Voting entails selecting a representative to exercise coercive force in our name; and appealing to such representatives for action is in effect a recognition of their legitimacy. This is a view shared by many varieties of anarchists. At the left end of the spectrum, anarcho-syndicalists prefer to ignore the state; hence the Wobblies’ split with De Leon and the elimination of the "political clause" from the IWW Preamble. Many individualist anarchists, voluntaryists, and right-libertarians (Wendy McElroy, for instance) also take this position. The only acceptable course is to withdraw all consent and legitimacy from the state, until "the last one out turns off the lights."

The problem with this line of argument is that the state is an instrument of exploitation by a ruling class. And exploiters cannot, as a group, be ethically "educated" into abandoning exploitation, because they have a very rational self-interest in continuing it. If most ordinary people simply withdraw consent and abandon the political process altogether, the ruling class will just drop the pretense of popular control and resort to open repression. So long as they control the state apparatus, a small minority of dupes from the producing classes, along with well-paid police and military jackboots, will enable them to control the populace through terror. A majority of Italian workers may have supported the factory occupations of 1920, but that didn’t stop the black shirts, paid with capitalist money, from restoring the bosses’ control.