Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the salon du livre libertaire, the anarchist bookfair, in Paris. As well as attending some discussions and film screenings, I was able to chat with a range of interesting people, from France and beyond.
As you would expect, some had views very close to my own and others less so – I still find it astonishing, for example, that there are so-called revolutionaries out there who regard property damage (broken windows!) as somehow beyond the pale.
It was particularly intriguing to come across somebody whose viewpoint was fundamentally different from mine and yet, at the same time, based on the same fundamental insight…
The fundamental difference was in our view of humankind. For him, our nature is essentially flawed, while for me it is overwhelmingly good and naturally tends, as Kropotkin says, towards co-operation and mutual aid. It is only the various structures of repressive and hierarchical society that prevent these innate human values from predominating.
Our fundamental point of agreement arose when I protested that the idea of a naturally co-operative human nature was the very basis of anarchism. He agreed – but, it turned out, was not actually an anarchist, but a proponent of a particular form of direct democracy.
I think we both felt, from our very different vantage points, that many anarchists don’t really understand this foundation of the philosophy to which they subscribe and the implications that necessarily arise from it.
Crucially, in my view, it makes the prospect of bring about an anarchist society in the future a lot less daunting. We are not faced with starting from scratch, from designing and creating some kind of artificial ideal society of our own invention.
Because anarchy is the natural form that human society takes, when our freedom hasn’t been stifled, our task is rather to remove the obstacles and let unimpeded nature take its course.
And because the desire for freedom stems from deep within the collective spirit of humankind, potential revolution is never as far away as people pessimistically assume. The urge is there, under the surface, but has not yet been made conscious. This is our role as anarchists: to break through the fug of apathy and passivity, to galvanise the human spirit into action, to be the spark that will ignite the firestorm of joyful revolt!
My thanks to eco-poet Helen Moore, and to Permaculture magazine, for the recent review of The Anarchist Revelation. Helen’s synopsis is of a succinct clarity that I have not yet been able to match when trying to explain the contents of my own book!