Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for Anarchy

Here we go...

The Anarchist Manifesto was written in 1850 by French thinker Anselme Bellegarrigue, just a couple of years after the publication of another famous political manifesto.  Whether or not it was a direct counter-response to Marx and Engels, I'm not sure, but I definitely sense some tension.

Bellegarrigue's manifesto was quite an individualistic and defiant screed.  In my theme-reveal post, I contrasted two basic urges of many manifestos: do your own thing versus be nice to one another.  There's no ambiguity about which side this one is on!

However, Bellegarrigue did try to be careful about definitions.  He started by flat-out rejecting the common interpretation of Anarchism as an incitement to chaotic violence.  In fact, he turned that stereotype on its head by saying that civil unrest was the direct result of governments exerting too much power.  These opposing syllogisms say a lot...
Who says anarchy, says negation of government;
Who says negation of government says affirmation of the people;
Who says affirmation of the people, says individual liberty;
Who says individual liberty, says sovereignty of each;
Who says sovereignty of each, says equality;
Who says equality, says solidarity or fraternity;
Who says fraternity, says social order.

By contrast:

Who says government, says negation of the people;
Who says negation of the people, says affirmation of political authority;
Who says affirmation of political authority, says individual dependency;
Who says individual dependency, says class supremacy;
Who says class supremacy, says inequality;
Who says inequality, says antagonism;
Who says antagonism, says civil war,
From which it follows that who says government, says civil war.
Nope, he didn't like any societal rulers, "from Aaron right up to Monsieur Bonaparte."  He even distrusted the idea of an elected government of representatives...
What is the voter expressing when he drops his ballot paper into the box? By such an act, elector is telling the candidate: I give you my freedom, unrestrictedly and unreservedly; I place at your disposal and abandon to your discretion my intellect, means of action, possessions, revenues, activity and entire fortune; I surrender to you my rights of sovereignty.
I shouldn't have been surprised that his libertarianism became a bit libertine (and thus echoed Rabelais' and Crowley's "Do what thou wilt"):
I am encapsulated within the span of my existence, and the only problem I must resolve is the problem of my well-being. I have but one doctrine and that doctrine has but a single formula, and that formula but a single word: ENJOYMENT.

... Does my selfishness do you some harm? If you say no, you have no grounds for objection, because I am at liberty in respect of anything not likely to do you harm. If you say yes, you are cheats, because my selfishness is nothing more than my assertion of self-ownership, an appeal to my identity, a protest against all overlordship. If you feel harmed by the carrying out of this act of self-possession, by my assertion of rights over my own person ... you are acknowledging that I am your possession, or, at the very least, that you have designs upon me.
For me, this brings to mind Ursula Le Guin's 1974 novel The Dispossessed. Reading this novel was the first time I got my head around the idea that this kind of anarchist society might possibly "work" in practice.  Of course, there's a loooong way to go between might possibly and would actually.  :-)


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Deborah! One thing I'm hoping to keep in all of the posts is some personal connection to the topic. I don't want these to be mini Wikipedia entries... :-)

  2. Replies
    1. Thinking is good. I'm not sure where I'm going to end up, viewpoint-wise, at the end of this, either...

  3. Have you read any of Ayn Rand's books? Atlas Shrugged is one of my all time favorite novels - and as much as I read, that's really saying something :)

    Good luck with the challenge! I'll be sure to stop in again

    1. I haven't yet mustered up the gumption to try Atlas Shrugged. I've read The Fountainhead twice... I really enjoyed its earnestness and positivity, but I often wished she would have treated the villains less as caricatures and more as real(er) people with real(er) motivations.

      Stay tuned for letter "C" for someone who was greatly influenced by Rand! :-)

  4. Speaking of anarchy, what do you think of Animal Farm? Do you consider that as a form of anarchy, maybe?

    Elizabeth Mueller
    AtoZ 2015
    My Little Pony

    1. It's been decades since I read Animal Farm... all I can remember is that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others... :-) Orwell was good at the subtle burn.

  5. Gotta admit, some of those points do make sense on paper. The line between "might possibly" and "would actually" probably depends on how much one trusts other people as individuals...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    1. This was so much of what Le Guin's The Dispossessed was about. Someone who grew up in this kind of society makes the perilous journey to a planet of strange people... who own their own property!

  6. Loved it, lived in France for two years in the 70s 80s I can so see that Anarchy in a way was French.. On paper so many things that do not work in practice seem to make sense #Blogging from A-Z swinging by to meet and greet. I am 471 and 472 in the long list, with MOVIES & What's in a NAME Hope you swing by to 4covert2overt and Defining Ways. Hope to meet up everywhere @M_C_V_Egan
    .⋱ ⋮ ⋰.,;***;,.⋱ ⋮ ⋰
    ⋰ ⋮ ⋱..._/l\_...⋰ ⋮ ⋱
    ♫ ƤҼƌҪҼ ƌƝƊ ĻƠṼҼ ॐ βԼƐֆֆїɳɠֆ ƌƝƊ βԼїֆֆ ♫...

    1. It's interesting... as I look through my list, I see quite a few more manifestos that seem to reflect a "national character." Some of those may be stereotypes, but in some cases it might be a case of boiling ideas down to their essence.

  7. Responsible freedom makes the world a better place- I am a sort of civilised libertine, I think. Good start sir :-)

    1. Thanks! A good anarchic start for you, too! :-)