The following is an article that featured in The Vegan magazine in Autumn 1989.
“The intellectually lazy among us see veganism as the ‘be all and end all’ – a panacea for the world’s ills. Others recognize that although wide-ranging this particular ‘ism’ has its limitations: it cannot provide all the answers because it lacks an all-embracing, systematic explanatory system and plan of political action – an ideology.
Commonly motivated by ethics, ecology, health and spirituality, vegans choose to abide by a set of rules, but here their similarity ends. They interpret, apply and promote vegan principles in accordance with their beliefs and values – the result of a vast array of economic, social, religious, political and cultural influences.
Some have developed their beliefs further by ‘moulding’ themselves to a particular ideology – be it ‘loosely knit’, where exponents believe there is no completely satisfying explanation of social relationships or guide to action e.g. ‘democratic’ socialism, conservatism or liberalism; or ‘tightly-knit’, where a more rigid programme shows the way to political salvation e.g. (state) communism, anarchism and fascism.
However, none of these ideologies, nor even their derivatives, even partly encompasses veganism in its purist form, indeed, it is difficult to imagine how any one of them could fully accommodate such a radical, uncompromising and far-reaching concept – certainly not the ‘loose’ or ‘soft’ ideologies, based on institutionalized animal abuse and environmental annihilation.
Assuming that no sane, rational individual would choose to exist within a totalitarian regime based on fear and power worship, that leaves anarchism – but classical anarchism, like socialism, is not noted for its concern for non-human species! That aside, anarchism offers the most suitable and desirable political model for the establishment, and maintenance of, a just and equitable society based on vegan principles – a new, revolutionary path to utopia, an ideology I shall term ‘anarcho-veganism’.
We commonly see them in town centres, sprawled defiantly on, and around, war memorials: leather-clad, ‘Conflict’ -following punks, with obligatory bottle of Merrydown Cider or, for the more sophisticated deviant, Special Brew. They’re ‘the anarchists’ – or are they?
The truth is that our punk stereotype is no more representative of an anarchist than Margaret Thatcher is of a caring, compassionate human being. Certainly, our stereotype displays anarchic traits: ‘doing his/her own thing’; refusing to conform to dominant norms of behaviour; perhaps the occasional spot of hunt sabbing or caving in a butcher’s window. However, his/her understanding of anarchist theory and practice tends to be rather shallow.
Anarchists, and those who refuse to be labelled such but demonstrate core characteristics, come in a variety of forms: libertarian socialists, anarcho-pacifists, anarcho-syndicalists, Situationists, revolutionary communists, free communists, individualists, green anarchists … All are united by a central belief: anarchy is liberty.
Anarchists seek anarchy – a form of social life without authority – in which nobody is in a position to exploit or oppress anyone else, and in which all the means to achieve maximum material and intellectual development are available to everyone equally. Order in such a society is obtained through voluntary agreements concluded between various individuals, groups and organizations – both geographical and professional – freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, and also to satisfy the needs and wants of civilized human beings.
Anarchy is not, as your dictionary informs you, about chaos and violence. This popular definition is a gross distortion of the term resulting from sustained denigration by those with the most to lose from its implementation – the rich and powerful.
Whenever rulers lose control and the ruled begin to organize themselves, the rulers cry ‘Anarchy!’ to indicate that such a condition is highly undesirable – of course it is from their point of view! Their authority usurped, excessive force is the only answer: Witness Tiananmen Square.
Anarchism is the method by which to achieve anarchy.
It is based on a number of premises including: nobody is fit to rule or exert authority over another; duties, such as patriotism, obligations to the state, worship of God, submission to higher classes or authorities, respect for inherited privileges, are lies; property is theft – laws serve the privileged and allow a minority to ‘steal’ that which belongs to us all; governments, of whatever political flavour, are inherently oppressive and coercive, and cannot be modified or reformed – therefore they must be overthrown (revolution); voting (where permitted), serves to reinforce and legitimize a corrupt system; the world is divided into ‘haves’ (the rulers) and the ‘have nots’ (the governed); capitalism is divisive, exploitative, inefficient and produces for profit rather than need, state communism is totalitarian; anarchy is liberty, order and sanity.
Fundamental to anarchist organization is the theory of ‘spontaneous order’: given a common need, a collection of people will, by trial and error, by improvisation and improvement, evolve order out of the situation.
It has been witnessed in most revolutionary situations: the early stages of the French Revolution; in the formation of the Soviets (workers’ councils) after the Russian Revolution of 1917 – before they were taken over by the anti-libertarian Bolsheviks; Spain in 1936; as well as in the ad hoc organizations that spring up after natural disasters and emergencies.
To further illustrate this point: when faced with a mutual threat such as the prospect of a motorway dissecting the community or a hypermarket on their doorstep, those affected naturally draw together and co-operate for the common good.
Anarchism is essentially about striving for freedom, taking back responsibility and regaining control over our lives.
Being the ultimate decentralists, anarchists tend to form groups based on the locality in which they live. In addition to seeking to raise revolutionary awareness, they may participate in community issues and in other struggles such as those fighting racism, sexism, militarism, imperialism and, increasingly speciesism. A significant proportion – ‘classical’ anarchists concentrate on the ‘traditional’ revolutionary stamping ground: class struggle – perhaps as agitators in the workplace.
Unsurprisingly, the preferred vehicle of the anarchist is direct action (not necessarily the illegal variety). Consequently, it is no coincidence that many Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists describe themselves as anarchists. Their ‘artwork’ frequently incorporates the internationally-recognised symbol for anarchy: a circled ‘A’.
Any vegan worth his/her salt not only craves animal and planetary liberation but human liberation as well. There is no way that capitalism – based on inequality and hierarchy – or, state communism – highly centralized and dictatorial – can possibly meet all our ideals.
Neither, I might add (conscious of the likely political allegiance of my readers), can the green parties. They mean well and perform a useful educational function, but they are by no means vegan friendly – the August newsletter of the Kent Association of Green Parties carries advertisements from companies specializing in organic beef and pest control! – and are part of the loathsome system we should be seeking to destroy. Green politicos are well-intentioned but remember: power always corrupts – though maybe you would prefer green politicians compromising, switching tack and running your life?
By way of a conclusion, if you passionately desire: an end to animal abuse; veganic agriculture as the norm; a return to community living; working because you want to; no politicians deciding what is best for you and how to spend your money; no bosses, teachers, policepersons, judges and ‘experts’ telling you what to do; no homelessness, poverty, despair, yuppies, sexism, racism, ageism, environmental destruction, wars (courtesy of governments) and multi-nationals, then anarcho-veganism – a complete ideology – is for you.”