March 14, 2013


Mere Anarchy : a review of TWO CHEERS FOR ANARCHISM: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play By James C. Scott (Nick Gillespie, Wilson Quarterly)

In Two Cheers for Anarchism, James C. Scott channels Proudhon more than punk while making a case for a kinder, gentler form of rebellion than the sort of bomb-throwing, street-fighting revolution typically associated with anarchism. Following Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the 19th-century French theorist who asserted that "property is theft," Scott defines anarchism loosely as "mutuality, or cooperation without hierarchy or state rule" (emphasis in the original). His rejection of "a comprehensive anarchist worldview and philosophy" is mirrored in the structure of the book, which consists of what he terms "fragments" rather than traditional chapters, the better to underscore the provisionality and narrow scope of his insights.

For Scott, anarchy is less a full-blown program than a tendency that privileges "politics, conflict, and debate" and shows a robust "tolerance for confusion and improvisation that accompanies social learning." Most of all, it's a rejection of rule by elites of any and all stripes, especially those who seek to remove themselves from scrutiny by claiming some sort of impersonal scientific basis for their rule.

Scott recognizes that total revolution often leads to something worse than what it replaces. "Virtually every major successful revolution ended by creating a state more powerful than the one it overthrew, a state that in turn was able to extract more resources from and exercise more control over the very populations it was designed to serve," he writes.

The Spanish Civil War (Hugh Thomas)

The nature of the crisis in Spain was described on 16 June 1936 by Gil Robles, the sleek, fat and almost bald, but still young, leader of the Spanish Catholic party, the CEDA.4 His party was conservative, and Catholic, and it included those who wanted to restore a monarchy, as well as those who desired a christian democratic republic. Some in the CEDA, particularly in the youth movement (JAP),1 were almost fascists; and some admired Dollfuss's corporate Austria. Gil Robles was eloquent and able, but hesitant and devious. He was as hated by monarchists and fascists as he was by socialists. Yet he had created the first middle-class Spanish mass party. Now he recalled that the government had had, since the elections in February, exceptional powers, including press censorship and the suspension of constitutional guarantees. Nevertheless, during those four months, 160 churches, he said, had been burned to the ground, there had been 269 political murders, and 1,287 assaults of varying seriousness. Sixty-nine political centres had been wrecked, there had been 113 general strikes and 228 partial strikes, while 10 newspaper offices had been sacked. 'Let us not deceive ourselves!' concluded Gil Robles. 'A country can live under a monarchy or a republic, with a parliamentary or a presidential system, under communism or fascism! But it cannot live in anarchy. Now, alas, Spain is in anarchy. And we are today present at the funeral of democracy!' 

Posted by at March 14, 2013 9:24 PM

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