About three years ago a speaker was introducing systematic ideology to a MENSA meeting. He spoke, among other things, of anarchism, and tried to make it clear what he understood by the term: a small, highly intellectualised movement, holding that people are perfectly capable of governing themselves and operating an orderly society without the use of authority; holding that it is, in fact, the imposition of authoritarian government that causes most of the trouble in the world. The Chairman in his closing speech swept this aside, declaring that anarchism stands for chaos. We were present at the meeting and were taken back to find the Chairman of a MENSA meeting giving voice to what we had regarded as a vulgar misconception. Only recently have we come to see that he was right; the word anarchism does mean what he took it to mean.
The anarchist movement proposes to abolish authoritarian government and the use of coercion but it does not intend, by doing this, to lower the level of orderliness. It maintains, on the contrary, that the outcome will be a more orderly community. The explanation lies in the belief that if people are not interfered with they will regulate their own behaviour more closely, and to better effect, than any government can do. A term we once encountered in an anarchist pamphlet conveys the idea: “autogestion,” or self-management.
We all know, from personal experience, that when you are ruled from outside you can get away with a great deal; an external government simply cannot be watching each of us all the time. But if, as the “anarchists” would have it, each of us is to be ruled from within, then we shall never escape from inspection – or punishment either.
“Anarchism,” taken in its root meaning and in the sense regularly given it by all but the tiny number of professed anarchists, does not refer to absence only of external, authoritarian government, but to absense of government full stop. And the absense of government in this unqualified sense, the absense of government both external and internal, would, as the MENSA Chairman maintained, bring chaos.
What is sought by the people calling themselves anarchists is not absense of government, but the abolition of external government in order to permit the unhindered operation of internal government, self-government. This means that their chosen title is a misnomer; the “anarchist” movement needs another name. “Autogestion” and “self-management” describe what it is working for, but they are not readily turned into adjectives and they lack dynamism. “Omnarchy” comes to mind, but brings no shiver of delight. Any suggestions?