The following is response to beyondsecularism’s question. Because the question is juicy but not that coherent, I thought to dedicate a blog post in order to address dilemmas within anarchism. The is question is posed under the comment section of Anarchists Advocate for a Collective Society Not a Power Vacuum, and it revolves around ethics, force and action. Here it goes.
It seems that there are two main questions within the paragraph: How do we deal with oppresive states/individuals people with our ethics, and how do we make sure their power stays away once they are removed from power? What should be our attitude with other people of struggle (beyondsecularism mentioned them as “minorities”, but that is not always the actual case)?
Realistically, anarchist tendencies within societies have existed, and do exist. To deal with the practices of neighboring communities, the best way to illustrate this is through the theory of accompaniment. I think Andrej Grubacic has a great answer in his book The Wobblies and the Zapatistas. He notices how in these two cases, very different people came into contact for a particular political goal. However, there was tension. Eventually, the differences went away because one side was willing to meet them halfway. It wasn’t necessarily about “converting” one side, but accompanying each other by working together. Linking up afterwards, I’d argue, is the process of solidarity in its entirety.
For example, students believe that they can help the farmers. They go meet them for a research project, but the farmers do not like the students. So the students realize a need that the farmers have. Some farmers may need help with law. The students, on the other hand, might help the farmers with their duties in the field. They both go out, and in the process of helping each other, transform each other. At the end, they both see each other as what they are, but they also see each other as truly equals. This crude example, I think, is the norm for anarchists to do community work.
To the extent of what if a community rejects help… well, I’d question to what extent they really want or “need” help. Many times from white activists, in their own minds, think the best way for them to “help” is to go in communities of struggle by doing something they do not need or want. For genuine solidarity to be built, there has to be mutual aid between both groups – an exchange of needs so there isn’t power dynamics, and for accompaniment to really happen. If the issue is urgent, then a community of struggle will be direct and particular in its urgent needs. Regardless, once this process is complete, can communities continue working to improve themselves.
Now, whether or not through years and years of work would build-up to take on the state is up to debate. As in the Spanish Civil War, such a society was built for years and existed as a specifically anarchist society for several years. It was crushed. The Zapatistas have a better model. It’s worth to keep in mind that they are not anarchists (but they are anarchistic). They organized in the Mexican jungles for years, preparing an army and a democratic system that they still practice. Once they appeared, they appealed to the Mexican society at large – they called for press releases, for international encuentros, etc.
What the Zapatistas demonstrate is that any type of anarchist society wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be an enclave separate from the people. To think this would be bad theory, and lead to isolation that could spell the end of a movement. Anarchist movements must appear where the people are – they have to be a cancer stuck with the system itself, attached to it as it slowly builds and begins out-organizing capitalism and the state in particular regions or sections of life. Because they were so tied to the Mexican people as a whole, the Zapatistas were able to avoid an all out war with the Mexican state. There is a very weak stalemate: the Zapatistas do not attack the Mexican state because they want to avoid becoming a power and avoid their destruction, and the Mexican state does not attack because it would be exposed as a brutal entity in front of the world. I think this position would be magnified if anarchist or anarchistic revolutions begin taking place everywhere in the world, and therefore live side by side with the state.
I think that in many ways, anarchists have to deal with the question of how to act relating to power wielders, through the state or other means, everyday. The way we answer it is the same almost everywhere: we organize, and we do it without the state. Like the Greek anarchists using direct action, anarchists do not go to the ballot to see their preferred change, they instead act to do it. Through organizing and fighting against power, we begin to link up and form solidarity with other people in the same fight, transforming each other as we go. We ourselves create power, it is true, but this power is not top-down, but like in the Zapatista or Rojava communities, it is bottom up. Either power will be decentralized and dispersed, or it will be managed by a few people, brutally and inefficiently. The trick here is create power through organized people.
Like the Zapatista and Rojava revolutions have shown, this is entirely possible. I think Rojava is especially interesting because they have to deal with authoritarian neighbors: ISIS from the south, Turkey from the North, plus Iran and Iraq who are not with the idea of an autonomous Kurdistan, or with Rojava specifically. However, because their own people are so well organized, and willing to fight with weapons, as well as becoming a regional power through collectives, Rojava is still standing today. Ultimately, the main weapon of building a new society isn’t weapons, but is building solidarity with different people, and supporting each other in a world without the state. When that fact is known, that everyone stands to benefit without a state, and when people organize to achieve it, anything is possible.
Once a society achieves statelessness, I truly believe that this society would not willingly enjoy going back, despite being surrounded with states. Ideally, by becoming a model in and of its own existence, people would not want their states to invade or waste resources on a desirable model (such as the Mexican people stopping a war with the Zapatistas). I don’t ever see a situation where the Zapatistas would attempt to invade, because they’ve realized that their fight is against power itself. For example, in the Spanish Civil War, the anarchists didn’t become a state itself, but were militarily defeated.
So, an anarchist “city” wouldn’t go into another area, because that wouldn’t make sense. What they would mostly do is appeal to the people who do not desire the state, and offer solidarity to strengthen ties between these communities. It is possible that a “state” may appear again, but with a fractured people between each other, as well as organized collectives, the state would most likely not have power to begin forcing itself into communities again. After all, the real source of power is organized people, but under what ideal is always at contention. Like I mentioned originally in the past, anarchists do not believe in a vacuum of power, but in a dispersal of power throughout the people as much as possible.