George Walford: The Socio-Anarchists

IC has had a good deal to say about the (Anarcho-)Socialists of the “SPGB”; now we turn towards the (Socio-)Anarchists of the “Anarchist” movement. Within anarchism there are two strands: First, the attempt to live anarchism within authoritarian society. Second, the attempt to establish a society which shall operate wholly or mainly in an anarchist way. There can be no argument about the practicality of the first activity; anarchists are, now, living in non-authoritarian communes, practicing mutual aid and helping the victims of authority; anarchists were prominent in the agitation (it almost amounted, at times, to localised rebellion) which largely ended the obscenity of municipal “housing” departments keeping houses empty while families were hotheless. The second strand in anarchism, the attempt to set up a society operating wholly or mainly on anarchist principles, is a different matter; the attempt to think . this through encounters the self-contradictions we have found in the proposals of the (A-)SPGB.

Consider these two passages from “Anarchy is Order”, by Colin Millen, in Freedom / A Hundred Years. He posits a sudden removal of all government, and continues:

the immediate result would be chaos and disorder… Order would have to be re-imposed because the majority of “ordinary” people would not know how to behave in such circumstances. They do not know because they have never been educated for such freedom…

And the main reason why there is this almost deliberate lack of proper information about the anarchist ideal is not hard to find. The ideas of people such as Godwin, Kropotkin and Goodman (to name but a few) are not promoted because those who do the telling and holding-in-place – the politicians, bosses and priests, the “leaders” of this world – know that, if they were, they would be in danger of losing their own positions of power and control.

Before we can dispense with authority the people must be educated, and before they can be educated we must get rid of authority. When we have anarchy we shall be able to have anarchy. It is the argument used by the (A-)SPGB when they say that if the circulation of the Socialist Standard were larger there would be more socialists. If there were more socialists there would be more socialists.

But there is, as we noted above, one type of anarchism free of such contradictions, a type capable of being put into practice. There is nothing of this sort in the (A-)SPGB.

from Ideological Commentary 26, March 1987.