“The only thing that is constant is change” – Heraclitus
Change and innovation are the pillars on which the foundation of our society stands. In every sphere of our life, we have made rapid changes and constant progress to make our lives better. However, this notion is self-defeating when we come to the economic systems which we employ to make our countries prosperous. For the past several decades, we have either used capitalism or socialism or a combination of both to run our economies.
No matter which technique we employ to steer our economic growth, both of them come up with their own set of problems to which no solutions have been provided. Capitalism, which allows free markets to operate and factors of production to remain in private hands, has the problem of inequality. This simply means that those with factors of production tend to get richer. Simultaneously, the labor class is forced into a kind of “wage slavery” as they sell their liberty, work and time for money. They don’t even have the right to question their ‘superiors’ or have a say in the management of the organisation. Whereas in socialism, the state controls all the factors of production and ensures that everyone is at par with one another. But in return, it snatches away their freedom. Here, people do not have the freedom of choice nor the freedom of expression. The government decides what should you eat, what should you wear, where should you work and you are denied the right to question it. Whatever the government says is final and binding.
So, do we have another option at all other than capitalism or socialism to help develop ourselves, our society and our economy?
We have a solution. An ideology which has been negatively publicized by the followers of capitalists and socialists to such an extent that they have completely changed the people’s perception. According to the people, the first image that they associate with that ideology is of masked youths throwing bombs or killing people. That ideology is Anarchism. But the question to be asked is that is this what Anarchism really means? Bombing and killing hordes of people? Or is it something completely different?
Anarchism is an ideology which aims to create a “classless society”. A society where everyone is equal and all the factors of production belong to the society as a whole. A society, where there is complete freedom and decisions are taken on a collective basis which is beneficial for all the members of the society. Everything which is being done by an individual is for the collective benefit of the society so that the individual and the society as a whole can develop together. The society should be libertarian, self-managed, self-governing and egalitarian. All the members of the society must have the right to influence a policy and each member must be provided with this opportunity to exercise this right. Anarchism demands that the members should be active in the society and should take part in its action, whether political, economic or social.
The key concept of Anarchism is “self-management” which implies that the citizens should control their communities through direct democracy and voluntary federation. There should be no hierarchical authority and all workplaces, councils and community assemblies should be decentralized. There should be “horizontal” organizations where every member has an equal say rather than “vertical” organizations where members have to follow the order of their bosses blindly. In a nutshell, Anarchism is a libertarian socialist ideology where each member has the complete freedom and liberty to choose and do whatever work they like and all the factors of production are collectively owned by the community.
The only way in which Anarchism is different from liberalism and socialism is that both these concepts require the presence of a government. On the other hand, in Anarchism, there is no concept of a government or a body which consists of individuals who are superior to others in the hierarchy. Why? Because this would limit the freedom of the members of the society. To be governed is to be ruled, regulated, curbed, censored, commanded and controlled by a body. Hence, the same problem would arise where the individual would not have the right to choose what work he wants to do nor would have an equal right to the factors of production. This restricts the freedom of an individual and creates inequality in the society as some individuals are higher than the others in the hierarchy.
However, no matter how good or utopian Anarchism may sound, it has several issues which need to be dealt with before we can think of implementing it in real life. The first issue is that it may create lawlessness in the society as there will be no police, or judicial system in place to punish the criminals as all individuals are equal and no one has the right to punish others. Moreover, without a government, who would undertake the construction of economic overhead capital such as roads, telecommunications, railways and social overhead capital which include investments in education and health? Who would undertake the task of uplifting the poor and providing them with subsidies, health benefits and all the social schemes which is (conventionally speaking) the government’s job? It can also be seen that there is no scope for innovation and development as there is no incentive and personal gain for the members of the society to innovate and develop as all the rewards would go to the society as a whole and none to the individual on a personal basis.
However, there are real-world examples where Anarchism has been successfully implemented which include Kibbutz’s of Israel, the Workers Organisation in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War and the Rebellion Local Councils in the cities of Benghazi, Tobruk, Misurata and Ajdabia during the Libyan Civil War. But one thing that has to be noticed in all the examples is that there was a presence of a government which was taking/had taken care of the macroeconomic problems of the society and developing/had developed social overhead capital. In two out of three examples, Anarchism was crushed and abolished as soon as there was stability in the country. Nevertheless, the continuity of the Kibbutz tribe is a signal that Anarchism is not a utopian ideology and can be implemented in real life, if correctly executed.
One way to implement Anarchism would be to introduce it in a two tier system. There would be an organization at the macro level which would consist of members democratically elected by the individuals of the society. It would restrict itself with matters pertaining to defence, macroeconomic problems, and investing in social overhead capital. It would be funded by the taxes which would be equally paid by the members of the society. Simultaneously, there would be complete anarchism at the micro-level and all the individuals of the society would have complete freedom. All the factors of production would be in control of the individuals of the society and each individual would have the right to do what they want to do and would have an equal say in all matters of the society. Hence, we can have liberalism socialist type of setting in the economy which is as close to Anarchism that we can get in the present scenario.
Therefore, no matter how good or bad Anarchism may sound on paper, it can come as a relief which can free us from the shackles of Capitalism and Socialism and provide us with an alternative option. Apart from its numerous advantages, it also has several disadvantages which must be taken care of before we can implement it in real life. For now, we still need a government to undertake the functions of uplifting the poor, maintain law and order and develop our economy. But in the future, when the role of government would decrease, the evils from Capitalism and Socialism would reach its saturation and men would desperately be looking for other options, would Anarchism be the way to go?
By Abhishek Sancheti.