Jun 4, 2015
What does it mean to be an anarchist? In general, critics of anarchism promote negative stereotypes of the movement. They picture angry and violent teenagers defacing public property, looting stores, and creating havoc. While certain violent movements have claimed to be anarchist, most avowed anarchists today encourage peaceful, anti-government protest. Anarchism is not a single unified system of beliefs, but rather comes in a number of strains. All anarchist groups resist hierarchical authorities (e.g. the government or ecclesiastical religious systems), but some promote absolute individualism and others believe in the complete collectivization of society.
Method 1 of 3: Educating Yourself
1. Decide whether or not you want to be an anarchist. This means studying, researching, and learning about anarchism. Reading some basic introductions to anarchism is the first step. Familiarize yourself with the ideas of some of the other most important anarchist theorists and writers.
- Read 19th century anarchist writers like Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Daniel De Leon, Mikhail Bakunin (God and the State), Alexander Berkman (The ABC of Communist-Anarchism), and Benjamin Tucker.
- Read 20th century writers such as Emma Goldman (Anarchism and other Essays), Errico Malatesta (Anarchy), Alfredo Bonanno, Bob Black, (The Abolition of Work), Wolfi Landstreicher (Willful Disobedience), John Zerzan, Murray Bookchin, Crimethinc. Ex-Workers Collective (Recipes for Disaster), Daniel Guerin (Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, No Gods No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism), Rudolf Rocker (Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice), Colin Ward (Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction), Noam Chomsky (Chomsky on Anarchism).
2. Read up on the different schools of thought. There are dozens of different anarchist schools like: libertarian socialism, anarcho-communism, syndicalism, platformism, post-left anarchism, mutualism, indigenism, anarcha-feminism, green anarchism, and others.
3. Familiarize yourself with the history of anarchism. Read about anarchist movements during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Mahknovist uprising in Ukraine, Paris in 1968, today's Black Blocs, and movement events such as WTO Seattle.
4. Understand and assess the negative connotations of anarchy. Take what you've learned about anarchism to reflect on those negative connotations. There are many negative stereotypes about anarchism. Many associate anarchism with violence, arson, and vandalism. Like with every system of thought, you will have to try to reconstruct how people think about anarchism.
5. Familiarize yourself with the anarchists' symbols and flags. Like all political movements or social organizations, anarchists use symbols to identify themselves and their principles. These symbols vary based on place and have changed over time.
- The original “black flag” symbol emerged in the 1880s. Over one hundred years later, the circle “A” symbol became the predominant anarchist symbol. Others exist as well.
6. Learn about capitalism, Marxism, fascism, and other political ideologies.Know your “opponents”. Know what is important in other systems of thought so you can emphasize how your viewpoint is better.
- Understand the arguments for big governments. Know that statism is founded on the idea that human beings cannot effectively organize themselves on an egalitarian basis. They need a centralized state to police morality and the economy in order to avoid conflict.
7. Take your time. You are developing a world view. Don’t rush into it because it is faddish or because you’re lazy. Carefully consider each thinker and each principle. What makes sense to you?
Method 2 of 3: Acting like an Anarchist
1. Start with yourself. Take control over your own life to the greatest degree possible. Nobody owns you, but you. No authority over you is legitimate unless you voluntarily grant the authority, just as you should not have authority over others if they don't consent to it.
- Think about your own relationships. Do you have equal relationships with your friends, family members, loved ones, co-workers? If you have power over them and they have not consented to it, find a way to remedy the situation. Talk to them about your anarchist beliefs. Explain that you wish to create an egalitarian relationship.
2. Consider your relationships to hierarchical authorities. Many anarchists have issues with the government, hierarchical religion, and large corporations. Think about your relationship to each one of these entities.
- Do you think that the government is too powerful? Do you think that the government intrudes on your life too much? Think about the steps you can take to reduce the government's presence in your own life. You can move to a new country where the government is less intrusive. You can go off the grid and evade the law. Or you can protest. See the following section.
- Many anarchists turn to atheism because they dislike the hierarchical structure of the church. Others choose to remain in their respective religions, but reject this structure in favor of individual worship.
- Most anarchists have a real problem working for big corporations, with several levels of managers. If this is you, consider quitting your job and starting your own business. Some even turn to collective farming.
3. Promote equality. Think about gender equality, sexual equality, racial equality, religious equality, and income equality. Solidarity through equality is the foundational principle of anarchism.
- Assist those in who are unfairly treated by the "system". Women are still underpaid in the workplace. Help promote their rights to equal wages. Racial minorities are often faced with prejudice. Help promote racial diversity. Challenge these categories and what they mean to society.
4. Find other people who share the same belief. Find a community of people who believe some of the same things you do and form a small, informal network of friends. You will need to rely on others. This is unavoidable. You can learn from each other, teach one another, and expand the network.
Method 3 of 3: Spreading the Word
1. Learn to be persuasive. Spread the word. Stress what you have in common with those you speak to. You will be especially effective if your questions direct their answers toward your conclusions. Make sure they know that anarchism is not about chaos or smashing things, it is a political and social ideology that advocates self-organization and a non-hierarchical political and economic system rooted in Direct Democracy and Radical Democracy.
2. Prepare to respond to accusations. Accusations of utopianism with examples of anarchy in action, most indigenous societies throughout history have been anarchist and even today there are many intentional communities that operate along anarchist lines - not always in the places you'd expect. The Amish, for instance, are a great example of non-ideological Anarchism in action.
3. Participate in protests, direct action, and grass-roots organizations. But remember, protest changes nothing if there is no movement behind it. That means long hours of community organizing, sitting through meetings, working with people who you probably disagree with and may not even like. It's not easy but if you really want to spread your message, it is necessary.
- You will probably have to make a lot of cold calls, put up flyers, and set up booths at local events in order to gain people's attention. If you truly believe in spreading your philosophy, these are all necessary actions.
4. Organize anarchist events. Lead by example. There are a lot of local events led by anarchist groups around the world. They range from informal meet and greets< to book fairs and concerts.
5. Use social media to spread the word. There are some anarchists who disagree with the use of social media as it tends to support big social media corporations.
- In our social media age, you can find other people with similar interests easily. Search your social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Steam....etc.) for other like minded individuals.
- You can also help organize protests and other anarchist activities through social media. This is a great way to get free exposure for your movement.