The Basic Principles of Anarchism
The basic principles of all anarchism we believe can be summed up in two statements:
- That all shall be free and equal.
- That we shall extend mutual aid and solidarity where we can.
Of course, we have to define what freedom, equality, mutual-aid and solidarity actually mean. However, before delving deeper, note that the core principles of anarchism are all dependent on each other. It is not sufficient to talk about respect and solidarity if some aspect of it violates mutual aid or autonomy of the individual, and so on. None of the principles can stand on their own, but together they simultaneously narrow the definitions and strengthen each other.
It should also be said that these are not the only possible definitions of anarchist principles. However, we believe that other definitions are simply reflections of each other and will produce the same analysis in the end.
There is also an unstated assumption in the principles is that are intended to be pro-active. To be an anarchist is to not be a passive consumer, but to actively create the society you desire. It is not sufficient to say that someone is your equal. Anarchists believe in challenging hierarchies in our relationships, especially where matters of access to power and resources are concerned, and this goes for both those at the bottom of the imbalance, and those at the top.
How we challenge imbalances will depend very much on the context. Sometimes it is through discussion and education; other times it demands a much more assertive or confrontational approach.
That all shall be free and equal
This sounds self-evident, even trite, but in the anarchist analysis it becomes a very powerful tool. Often freedom and equality are only discussed within narrow parameters. For instance, the freedom to vote in a modern democracy, equality before the unforgiving power of the law, or through illusory concepts such as the “American Dream”, or the freedom to be a wage slave. Anarchists question why these parameters need to exist.
In most political systems freedom and equality are qualified rights, bestowed and removed at the whim of the elite who govern. Anarchists on the other hand consider them inalienable, and that it is the social systems that must be curtailed rather than freedom and inequality.