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(en) wsm.ie: State and Democracy Position Paper - Passed by National Conference, July 2017
Thu, 3 Aug 2017 12:44:43 +0300
Anarchists reject the current political system. In short we oppose the state but fight for
real democracy. ---- 1. What is the State? ---- 1. The current political system is one
defined by the institution or collection of institutions known as the state. The state has
many definitions. ---- 2. It is a coercive institution whereby a minority rules the
majority. ---- 3. It is the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. ---- 4. The state is
basically a group of people, much smaller than the total population, with an established
set of practices who tell other people what to do. Most do what they're told because they
believe in the authority of the state or depend on its resources, and those who don't obey
are punished as a warning to other would-be rebels. ---- 5. The state has the innate
tendency to centralise and bring more and more aspects of society under its jurisdiction
and hence control.
6. We know the modern state by its ‘political' decision making bodies, such as
parliaments, local councils, royalty, along with its unelected bureaucracy which
administers the system across governments, its system of laws adjudicated by courts and
enforced by police, its military, its borders with other states, and its running of
various businesses and services. This can be summarised as legislature, executive,
judiciary, military, and administration.
7. The state has existed in different forms for thousands of years. However, it is not a
natural and inevitable fact of human society, existing roughly 1% of the time humans have
been around. For close to 200,000 years humans lived without the state, generally being
understood to have arisen so the privileged could manage the social inequality which arose
when human societies began to produce a material surplus.
8. In its modern form the state has only existed for several hundred years. That nation
state has changed significantly in the past century to adopt service provision and welfare
roles as one of its core expectations. This was a compromise to avoid socialist revolution.
9. The state presents itself as a ‘nation'. The nation ties the organs of the state into a
wider cultural phenomenon. The formation of a nation state involves forcing a uniform
national ‘culture' on people, an official genetic lineage, religion, language, history,
and artistic tradition. Hence the nation is inherently divisive and exclusionary. The
residents of a nation have an expected duty to that particular nation above any other.
This is the basis of nationalism.
2. Why Anarchists Reject the State
1. Anarchists reject the state for many reasons.
2. We oppose the state on a direct ethical basis because the state is a largely
unaccountable gang of strangers who control our lives without our consent. The liberal
notion of a ‘social contract' is an illusion.
3. Anarchism is defined by the opposition to hierarchy, i.e. relationships of power, and
the state is a rigidly hierarchical institution which ties other power systems together.
4. The state allows for the widespread entrenchment of prejudice and discrimination by use
of institutional force. Without the state, patriarchy, racism, and ableism, would have a
much weaker grip on human society. The state is ultimately the enemy of every oppressed
5. The division of global human society into separate nation states forces people of
different nations to compete against each other needlessly in pursuit of the narrow
national interest, instead of unleashing enormous value by co-operating and instead of
recognising our common cause against the class system, war, racism, queerphobia, sexism,
6. The state is a dull, inefficient, irrational, institution which causes stagnation in
7. It deprives the vast majority of us of our initiative. As a centralised institution,
the state deprives us of community and the opportunity to work together as equals. Hence
it encourages apathy, ignorance, passivity, mutual suspicion, and loneliness.
8. Concentrating power is an atrocity waiting to happen, and so power should be spread
out, or de-centralised, as much as practicable.
9. We reject the old attitude of liberals and authoritarian socialists alike, that without
the state humans couldn't work together on a large scale, being that most people are too
stupid and lazy, and need to be lead and forced not to rip each other to shreds. Humans
have demonstrated well enough that we don't require a central authority to peacefully and
10. We remember that much of what we now most value in the state was originally created by
volunteers, such as ambulances, fire brigades, and public libraries, as well as fought for
tooth and nail by social movements, such as environmental and health and safety regulation.
3. State and Revolution
1. As revolutionaries, anarchists assert it's impossible to use the state to reform our
way to liberty.
2. Equally we are against seizing the state to further revolution. We have a unique
approach to the state to both because destroying the state is a key objective of
revolution in its own right and because the state is a counter-revolutionary institution.
3. This sets us apart from authoritarian socialists who critique the capitalist state but
accept the state by itself - whether formally or just in practice - as a neutral
institution which can be used to further the aims of communist revolution if in the hands
of the working class, or more accurately in the hands of the revolutionary party which
claims to represent the class.
4. History has proven again and again that when socialists seize the state it leads to the
red bureaucracy or socialist tyranny which anarchists predicted decades before the USSR
proved it in reality.
5. The Leninist idea that the state will ‘wither away' after proletarian revolution is
pure idealism and doesn't bear out in practice (or make sense in theory).
6. We do not see a state operated by a socialist ruling class, such as that suffered in
the USSR, Maoist China, or Cuba, as any improvement over capitalism. We work to overthrow
capitalism because we want to be free, which means no rulers whether capitalist or
socialist. We would be fighting for revolution, against alienation, within the USSR as
much as within the USA or Ireland today.
7. Furthermore, the state in the hands of socialists has been instrumental in crushing
worker self-management and maintaining a form of state capitalism instead. This tragic
error has been repeated enough times for us to consider the case closed on this issue.
8. Our strategy for revolution is broadly to create the new world within the shell of the
old. A real revolution can only happen from the bottom up. It can't be forced from the top
down by an enlightened elite. This means building our own grassroots, democratic counter
power of workers' councils and neighbourhood councils which will replace capitalism and
9. Thus an integral part of anarchist revolution is smashing the state when the
opportunity arises. That means that in a revolutionary upheaval where democratic working
class institutions have gained enough power to rival capitalist institutions (a dual-power
situation), the working class should dismantle the state and take over the running of
society with our own self-managed collective bodies. Otherwise we risk being crushed by
10. The only way the abolish the state is to take over its valuable functions, disrupt its
operation, and undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of people, replacing
that with the legitimacy of libertarian institutions.
11. The fundamental role of the police is to repress the working class in the service of
the ruling class. As such we don't see police as ordinary workers, but as class enemies.
4. Anarchism and Democracy
1. We oppose the state but seek to create a new highly organised society which is truly
2. Anarchists advocate for democracy because in a society it is necessary to make
decisions together, and democracy is the fairest and most effective method of doing so.
3. The real democracy we advocate is often called ‘direct democracy' or ‘participatory
4. Democracy is based on the principle that people should have a say in decisions in
proportion to how much they're affected. Therefore, decisions should be made at the lowest
effective level in society, for example in the neighbourhood assembly rather than in
5. Hence democracy is not mob rule. True democracy must respect personal freedom and
dignity. For example, straight people should have no say in what gender someone else's
romantic partner can be.
6. As democracy is the best form of collective decision making, it belongs as much in the
workplace (‘economic democracy') as in the general political decision making bodies
7. The organs of so-called ‘democracy' in statist society are not democratic in a
8. Modern ‘representative' democracy was developed in the transition between feudalism and
capitalism as a way for the most privileged in society to still rule while giving the
appearance of democracy to appease the masses. It was never intended to be democratic.
This is illustrated by the fact that the first representative democracies only allowed
property owning men to vote.
9. Democracy is self-rule, not picking rulers.
10. Real democracy requires that the overwhelming majority of the population regularly
discuss and make decisions together. This is in stark contrast to every 4-5 years picking
which tiny group of strangers will make decisions about our lives far away from us.
11. In order to have large-scale democracy, we favour a system of delegates rather than
‘representatives'. Delegates are people chosen to obediently convey the views of the
people who elected them. Those views are called a ‘mandate'. Delegates can be immediately
recalled, or otherwise penalised, for breaking this mandate. This can be scaled up across
larger regions and numbers of people in a similar fashion.
12. A large scale contemporary example of this direct, delegate-based, participatory,
democracy is TEV-DEM in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava), but history
abounds with examples of direct democracy in action. The Paris Commune showed it could
work back in 1871. Other examples of varying character include the factory councils and
peasant communes of revolutionary Russia and Ukraine 1917-20, the CNT neighbourhood and
workplace councils in Spain 1936-7, Hungary ‘56, and the Zapatistas 1994-today, among others.
13. The democratic organisation of human society doesn't require political borders between
regions. They are a fantasy, and responsible for the deaths of thousands of migrants, as
well as even more in violent geopolitical conflicts. We are working towards a borderless
planet - as it is seen from outer space - with freedom of movement for all.
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