Definition of Anarchism:
Coker says, “Anarchism is the doctrine that political authority, in any of its forms, is unnecessary and undesirable”. According to Prince Kropotkin, “Anarchism is principle or theory of the conduct under which society is conceived without a government-harmony in such a society being obtained not by submission to law or by obedience to an authority but by free agreements conducted between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being”.
Huxley says, “Anarchism is a state of society in which the rule of each individual by himself is the only government”. According to G.D.H. Cole, “Anarchism as a philosophic doctrine sets out from a root and branch opposition to all forms of society which rest on the basis of coercive authority. Anarchism, as an ideal, means a free society from which the coercive elements have disappeared”.
On the basis of the definitions given above, the state and government will not be there in any form of Anarchism. A free society will be established in Anarchism, which will be based on co-operation. All the people will lead a life based on mutual love and there will be no exploitation in this society.
The Theories of Anarchism:
Anarchism means the absence of government or state in any form. Anarchists say that state is a capitalist institution and it is based OB force. State always sides with the capitalists. It is an unnecessary evil. Thus, it should be completely eliminated and in its place voluntary institutions should be formed. These institutions would perform all functions with mutual co-operation.
There will be a social control over land and the means of production. The abolition of state would mean the abolition of all political limits. The anarchists also oppose religion and private property. Anarchists contend that there is no fear of anarchy even after the abolition of the state, because the motive for all crimes is the unequal decision of property.
With the abolition of the institution of private property, equality, liberty and fraternity would be established, and the occurrence of crimes would automatically be stopped. With the spread of education, there would be no crimes and a feeling of co-operation would be inculcated in the minds of the people.
Supporters of this theory:
The supporters of this theory are: William Godwin (1756-1836), Thomas Hodgskin (1787-1869), Proudhan (1809-1865), Henry Thoreau (1817-1862), Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) and Prince Kropotkin (1842-1921).
Joseph Proudhan (1809-1865) was probably the first philosopher who called himself an anarchist. His first book ‘What is Property’? His reply was that it is a theft. He criticised the state because this institution came into being with the system of private property.
He also criticised the state, because in the state there was an influence of passion and justice and intelligence. It destroyed individual liberty. He bitterly criticised the exploitation and tyranny and said, “Government of many and by many was in every form an oppression. The highest perfection of society is found in the union of order and anarchy”.
Proudhan also made an assumption of a society which would be based on mutual co-operation and there would be no place for the state or any type of exploitation in it. Institutions established on voluntary basis would increase production.
Thoreau (1817-1862) also opposed the state. He said that the individual is wise. Therefore, it is proper to leave him free. Thoreau says, “That government is the best which governs not at all”.
Bakunin (1814-1876) bitterly opposed the state, private property and capitalism, because all these are the causes of the exploitation of the workers. Bakunin said that the state was based on force and it provided shelter to private property.
Therefore, it should not be tolerated in any form. Private property is a bad institution, because it creates economic inequality and the labourers are exploited. He also criticised religion because it is the supporter of both the state and private property.
Bakunin also proposed the future set-up after the abolition of the state. He gave his new social set-up the name of federalism. According to it, “there will be free union of individuals into communes, of communes into provinces, of provinces into nation and finally of nation into the United States of Europe and later of the whole World”. In this federalism the entire work will depend on mutual will and the individual will not be compelled for any work.
Kropotkin (1842-1921) was also a Russian Communist who expanded the views of Bakunin and presented then in a systematic manner. He criticised the state and said that it had no natural or historical justification. It is against the cooperative feeling of human beings and it is based on the theory that the nature of man is not social and there is always a competition among them.
The laws are either dangerous or useless. Kropotkin said that the state was unnecessary from historical point of view because it can neither protect the labourers and farmers from the exploitation by the capitalists and big landlords, nor could it create jobs for the poor and the labourers. Private property was an evil, because it created economic disparity. Most of the wealth of the country was concentrated in the hands of a few persons and majority of people starved.
What would be the set-up of the society after the abolition of the state? Kropotkin’s outlines are similar to those to Bakunin. He said that after the abolition of the state, the people would live in society, but they would be free from any control of the government.
Autonomous institutions shall exist and they will be based on voluntary agreements. The people, who do not perform their duties towards the society, will be boycotted. The disputes will be settled by voluntary courts.
The number of disputes will be reduced, because the evils of capitalism will come to an end, proper education will spread in the society. From the economic point of view, the new set-up shall be of complete communism. Like Bakunin, Kropotkin was against religion.
Means of Anarchists:
There were two kinds of anarchists-philosophical and revolutionary. Anarchists like Tolstoy were philosophical anarchists, who were in favour of adopting non-violent means, while others like Kropotkin were ready to adopt violent means for the achievement of their aim.
Criticism of Anarchism:
Anarchism has been criticised for the following reasons:
(1) Anarchism has considered the state an unnecessary evil and criticised it bitterly. But this is totally wrong because today the state has become a welfare institution;
(2) The anarchists have a blind faith in the goodness of human nature. Most of the people are selfish and they do not care for the interests of the society;
(3) The Anarchists believe that in a stateless and classless society there will be an end to the crimes and all the functions will be performed on the basis of mutual co-operation, but this does not seem to be practical;
(4) The anarchists are in favour of adopting violent means in order to achieve their aims, which is to be condemned;
(5) The anarchists have given much importance to the voluntary institutions after the abolition of the state, but they will not be able to perform all the functions of the state efficiently;
(6) The abolition of the state will not solve all the problems; on the contrary, many new problems will crop up;
(7) The anarchists’ viewpoint that each law is made for the protection of the rights of the individual is wrong. In modern age, many laws are made for the welfare of the labourers;
(8) After the abolition of the state, the plan of the anarchists will not be practicable.
Bertrand Russell writes, “The anarchist ideal for a community in which no acts are forbidden by laws is not, at any rate for the present, compatible with the stability of such a world as the anarchist’s desire. The state in some form, whatever may be said in criticism of its mistakes, its inefficiency and its abuse of power, is and always will be an absolute necessity among civilised men”.
Though the anarchists have been bitterly criticised, yet they have condemned the capitalist system and private property. Their arguments are not wholly devoid of truth.