JR'S Free Thought Pages
                                                                       No Gods  ~ No Masters    ~ No Bullshit



An Anarchist Primer

No Gods, No Masters

By Johnny Reb, February, 2018


Imagine there’s no heaven, above us only sky, no hell below us.

Imagine there’s no country, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.

A brotherhood of man – John Lennon, Imagine


Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I’ll be your friend; I'll help you carry on
– Bill Withers, Lean on Me



In our reputed liberal democracies and capitalist socio-economic arrangements we make tacit assumptions about freedom, justice and equality. These assumptions are, for the most part, inculcated and indoctrinated delusions. With exceptions that exist within certain legal and ideological parameters (such as the “freedom” of the capitalist financial class to exploit the environment and other humans, accumulate unlimited wealth and worship the market deity as workers are free to toil 24-7 in the new “gig economy” at unliveable wages) our socio-political order is as authoritarian and hierarchical as any theocratic or monarchical tyranny in the past.


Following a brief introduction to anarchism I will focus on one specific form of bureaucratic hierarchy [1a] within capitalist political arrangements that most of us are familiar; namely, the workplace. With rare exception, the workplace (like the corporation itself) is a stifling state sanctioned and maintained authoritarian environment in which people are forced to market themselves as wage slaves, turned into commodities and automatons and subsequently subjected to all manner of indignities and injustices.


Consider the recent gyrations in the casino called the stock markets and the accompanying hand wringing of financial theologians on the business news networks. The stock market, for all of its apparent mystification, is more of an emotional barometer for the rich than a reflection of any sense of common well being for all. Fear, greed and computer algorithms are what drive the markets and detached from the lived experiences of the 99.9% of humanity it exploits, merely reflects the elation or melancholy of the financial oligarchs who wheel and deal. On Monday Feb 5th 2018, the DJIA dropped 1,600 points, the largest one day point decline in history. The historic stock decline was primarily caused, in addition to the prospect of higher interest rates, by the news that workers wages had improved slightly. One would think that rising wages, which have been stagnant since the 1970s, would be reason for investors to celebrate, validating their long-time trickle-down swindle of the masses. Instead, they panicked fearfully clutching their bank books because capitalists know the logic of the game they play day in and day out: write the rules to suit themselves, control the political lackeys in government, manipulate and deceive the masses with vile propaganda, suppress wages and make profit at the expense of all else. When they win, the worker loses as in our morally degenerate corrupt and rotting system of greed, the degradation and impoverishment of the worker is a sign of a healthy economy; but for whom?


This looting machine will only end when people wake up, look behind the curtain and finally realize they’ve been swindled and ripped off one too many times by the wizards of finance. Then perhaps they will run the charlatan financial priests, voodoo banking alchemists and their lap poodle politicians out of town on the proverbial rail, place them in pillories and prosecute them as the criminals they are.


What is Anarchism?


Every type of ecclesiastical and political power presupposes some particular form of human slavery, for the maintenance of which it is called into being - Rudolf Rocker


A good man is one whose opinions and actions are pleasing to the holders of power - Bertrand Russell


Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give life meaning...Better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees...Freedom is what we do with what is done to us. – Jean Paul Sartre


As Noam Chomsky has repeatedly pointed out, anarchism is one of the most maligned and misunderstood philosophies in modern historical thought, and with good reason: its unique interpretation of genuine human freedom, justice and revolutionary potential is limitless as it has challenged all forms of authoritarianism and hierarchy that have persisted throughout history. Since its emergence in the 19th century as a dedicated alternative and threat to authoritarian styles of human social and political organization, conservative and liberals alike have made every effort to vilify, distort and demonize it. Permit me to cite one well-know example: The separation of church and state is considered a necessary criterion for the establishment of our putative democracies and is deemed sacrosanct. But as most of us ought to know, by the stark reality of the farcical nature of contemporary politics in the United States and Canada, the important wall between church and state is a façade. Since the church and state are both instruments of power and oppression, the anarchist solves this dilemma simply by abolishing them both.


At the most basic level, anarchist philosophy is grounded in two elementary premises. The first is the sanguine notion that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable, honest, moral and decent as they are permitted to be and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how to do so. The second is that power corrupts (and to complete the common adage, absolute power corrupts absolutely). Most of all, anarchism is merely a matter of having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by (such as, for example at a minimalist ethical level, abiding by the Golden Rule), and to follow them through to their logical conclusions. As strange as this may seem to us who have always existed within top down authoritarian models of human organization, in most significant ways you are probably already an anarchist; you just don’t realize it. As I quickly learned as a senior high school mathematics teacher for three decades, if you treat people like children, they will typically behave like children. All aspects of human endeavour demand limits, whether there are real free markets (and not the fraudulent nanny state supported monopoly capitalist imperialism we have endured for centuries) or any other socio-economic system such as worker controlled communal enterprises.


Both Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) and Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980), two of my most important intellectual influences, although not self-proclaimed anarchists, held views that most anarchists would embrace. Russell never stated explicitly that he was an anarchist, but at a philosophical level he was undeniably sympathetic with its principles of freedom, direct democracy and contempt for all power and hierarchical systems. He wrote two volumes specifically on this theme, one of which was called Authority and the Individual and the other, Power: A Social Analysis. Like all of his works, both are still in print. Sartre, in his magnum opus Being and Nothingness, introduced the notion of “bad faith”, the tortured hypocritical rationalizations and evasions we concoct to evade both moral and intellectual responsibility for our own freedom. The most fundamental assertion of Sartre’s philosophy is that we are condamné à être libre (condemned to be free) - free in all circumstances of our existence. Even evasion of decision such as claiming neutrality on an issue is an assertion of the status quo, which has consequences, often dire. Even if a gun is held to my head, I can choose to resist and perhaps be killed. Since we are free, we create the world in which we live; there are no external obstacles other than those we determine by the choice of our own projects. We are responsible for the world as it is (including monsters like Donald Trump) – and free to make it otherwise if we so choose.


For Sartre, l'existence précède l'essence (existence precedes essence); in other words, there is no human nature. Human society and the values we choose are something quite independent of the laws of nature. By way of our consciousness, human beings create their own values and determine a meaning for their lives because they do not possess inherent meaning and value as though they are rooted in our minds at birth; identity or value must be created by the individual. Society, politics, economics and the way we live do not have to be as they are; it is possible to change the world, not merely interpret it, as Karl Marx had proclaimed. Each of us is free to accept or reject our condition in the world; even if we fail to make changes, we are always free to reject the status quo, resist and even incite revolution. The laws we have adopted for the economy for example are not the same as the laws of physics which are independent of human belief or volition. Our political, social and economic associations and arrangements are the result of human agency, but unfortunately and almost invariably by those with power over us. For example, there is no such thing as economic “law” in the same sense of laws of physics such as universal gravitation. [1]


But despite the liberating movements of the Humanist Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, most people these days will acknowledge that genuine freedom and democracy have never really existed. Our current top down models of republican and parliamentary democracy, including the current global domination of neo-liberal corporate capitalism are as oppressive, coercive and undemocratic as the theocracies and monarchies of the era we now call the Dark Ages. The anthropologist David Graeber, one the most well-known contemporary anarchists, has a quite simple conception of anarchism. It is whatever people decide to do, whatever arrangements out the countless options possible they make among themselves when they’re not threatened with coercion or violence; as he explains:


[Anarchism is] a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society—and that defines a “free society” as one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage, or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Even deeper structural inequalities like racism and sexism are ultimately based on the (more subtle and insidious) threat of force. Anarchists thus envision a world based on equality and solidarity, in which human beings would be free to associate with one another to pursue any endless variety of visions, projects, and conceptions of what they find valuable in life. When people ask me what sorts of organization could exist in an anarchist society, I always answer: any form of organization one can imagine, and probably many we presently can’t, with only one proviso—they would be limited to ones that could exist without anyone having the ability, at any point, to call on armed men to show up and say “I don’t care what you have to say about this; shut up and do what you’re told.”


Although anarchism is generally considered a political philosophy situated on the left of the political continuum, no other philosophy or political theory has had the potential to unite both socialists and libertarians, two seemingly disparate political ideologies. Both have been able to embrace the open ended spectrum of anarchist thought, leading to a situation in which many anarchists on the left refer to themselves as libertarian socialists. Libertarian socialism is “socialism from below”, not top down hierarchical state run archetypes such as Stalinism, Maoism or even social democracies as featured in some Western European countries.


Anarchism is anathema to all forms of conservatism and rigid world views; it has never been and has never aspired to an inflexible, all-encompassing, self-contained, and internally consistent system of ideas, set of doctrines, salvation plans, teleological narratives or absolutist theoretical bases. On the contrary, anarchism from its earliest days has been an evolving set of attitudes and ideas that can apply to a wide range of social, economic, and political theories, practices, movements, and traditions. There are anarchists who call themselves communalists, socialists, free enterprisers, federalists, individualists, syndicalists and feminists. In other words, anarchist political philosophy is by no means a cohesive movement.


The word “anarchy” is derived from the Greek word anarkhos, which means “without authority” or “without rulers, leaders or bosses”. Thus, anarchy is committed first and foremost to the universal rejection of coercive systems of hierarchical human organization. Coercive authority includes all centralized and bureaucratic forms of human association and governance that would naturally include monarchy, theocracy, fascism, patriarchy, racism, nationalism, police, prisons, the military, nationalism, imperialism, representative democracy, state capitalism, state communism and socialism, class systems, the capitalist workplace, corporations and almost all religions, particularly autocratic forms such as Christianity and Islam.


Famous Anarchists


The first political theorist to describe himself as anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), a French philosopher and socialist who understood “equality not just as an abstract feature of human nature but as an ideal state of affairs that is both desirable and realizable.” While this was a common egalitarian principle among socialists, anarchist conceptions of equality emphasized that, “true anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that everyone must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse in fact,” as “individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality.” It was Proudhon who proclaimed in his book What is Property, that (in the modern sense of real estate), “property is theft”.


The Russian Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), one of the most well-known prominent anarchist theorists and revolutionaries in history and Karl Marx’s foremost intellectual interlocutor and opponent, explained that individual freedom depends upon not only recognizing, but “cooperating in the realization of others’ freedom,” when he wrote:


My freedom… is the freedom of all since I am not truly free in thought and in fact, except when my freedom and my rights are confirmed and approved in the freedom and rights of all men and women who are my equals.


Bakunin and anarchists generally, consider representative forms of government, such as republican and parliamentary democracies, with the same disdain as they view overtly totalitarian formations of government. They consider them fraudulent, reasoning is that:


In the political realm, representation involves divesting individuals and groups of their autonomy and vitality—their power to create, transform and change. To be sure, domination often involves the literal destruction of vitality through violence and other forms of physical coercion. As a social-physical phenomenon, however, domination is not reducible to aggression of this sort. On the contrary, domination operates chiefly by “speaking for others” or “representing others to themselves”—that is, by manufacturing images of, or constructing identities for, individuals and groups.


Mikhail Bakunin wrote that, “Only individuals, united through mutual aid and voluntary association, are entitled to decide who they are, what they shall be, how they shall live.” Thus, with any hierarchical or coercive institutions, the natural result is oppression and domination, or in other words, spiritual death. For an archive of Bakunin’s key writings, including God and the State, go here.


Anarchism emerged uniquely and organically in the United States, quite apart from its European counterpart. The first anarchists in North America were Indigenous peoples but following the onset of the European murderous invasions, there were Antinomians, Quakers, and other avant-garde communitarian Christian groups who found the authoritarian punitive nature and harsh rigidity the conventional churches intolerable. These various religious groups came to develop a political outlook which emphasized the anti-libertarian nature of the state and government, although within their own communities they often developed their own forms of bureaucracy, hierarchy and persecution. One of the leaders of these religious groups was the pacifist, abolitionist and socialist Adin Ballou (1803-1890) who declared that “the essence of Christian morality is the rejection of force, compromise, and the very institution of government itself.” For Ballou, a Christian “is not merely to refrain from committing personal acts of violence but is to take positive steps to prevent the state from carrying out its warlike ambitions.” The most famous Christian anarchists would be the celebrated Russian author of War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy. Three other that come to mind are theologian Martin Buber (1878-1965), the French philosopher Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) author of Anarchy and Christianity, The Technological Society, Propaganda and many other excellent books; and Dorothy Day (1897-1980) cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement and publication The Catholic Worker.


During the next phase of American anarchism, inspiration was drawn from the notions of autonomy and individualism. Josiah Warren (1798-1874), generally considered the first American anarchist, had published the first anarchist periodical in 1833, the Peaceful Revolutionist. Many others joined Warren in identifying the state as the enemy and maintaining that the only legitimate form of social control is self-discipline which the individual must impose upon himself without the aid of external authority, including government. Philosophical anarchism grew in popularity, and in the 1860s, two loose federations of anarchists were formed in the New England Labour Reform League and the American Labour Reform League, which were the source of radical vitality in America for several decades. American anarchists were simultaneously developing similar outlooks and ideas as Proudhon was emerging in Europe. One of the most renowned American anarchists, Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939), translated Proudhon’s work in 1875 and founded his own anarchist journals and publications, becoming the primary political theorist of philosophical anarchism in America.


Tucker viewed anarchism as “a rejection of all formalism, authority, and force in the interest of liberating the creative capacities of the individual,” and that, “the anarchist must remove himself from the arena of politics, refusing to implicate himself in groups or associations which have as their end the control or manipulation of political power.” Thus, Tucker, like other anarchists, ruled out political parties, parliamentary, republican and constitutional governments as intrinsically hierarchical and in general placed his ideas and the anarchist movement outside the tradition of bourgeois “democracy” as it had developed in Europe, Canada and America. Anarchism has been mistakenly perceived as a violent philosophy, and while that may be the case for some who call themselves anarchists, the vast majority of anarchist thinkers rejected the revolutionary strategy of violence carte blanche. After all, its first adherents in America were driven to anarchist theory simply as a result of their uncompromising pacifism. For the likes of Tucker and other influential anarchist theorists, the state, rather than being a real structure or entity, is nothing more than an abstraction to justify control and coercion. Proudhon opined that, “a true revolution can only take place as mankind becomes enlightened.” Revolution, to anarchists like Proudhon and Tucker, was not an imminent reality, even though it may be an inevitable outcome.


 Something that seems clear is that is revolution takes place not by a concerted uprising of the masses but rather through a process of individual social reformation or intellectual awakening. Proudhon, like Tucker and the Native American anarchists, believed that the function of anarchism is essentially dynamic and educational, perhaps even evolutionary. The state will be abolished at a point at which people in general have become convinced of its anti-social and undemocratic nature. When enough people resist to the point of ignoring the state altogether (perhaps refuse en masses to show up for the farcical elections), the state will have been extinguished as completely as a scrap of paper when tossed into a fire.


In the 1880s, anarchism was taken up by many of the radical immigrants coming into America from Europe, such as Johann Most (1846-1906) and Emma Goldman (1869-1940), an immigrant Russian atheist and feminist of Jewish background [2]. The mainstream conservative press naturally portrayed Goldman, a brilliant orator, writer and intellectual, “as a vile and unsavoury devotee of revolutionary violence.” It was Goldman’s lifelong companion and fellow anarchist Alexander Berkman (1870-1936), who, along with Goldman’s support, involved himself in an attempted assassination of Henry C. Frick, an American industrialist and financier, historically known as one of the most ruthless industrialists , often referred to working people as “the most hated man in America.” This was a serious indictment in the era of Robber Baron/ Gilded Age [3] era of other well-known and much reviled vulture capitalists such as J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Emma Goldman, as well as Berkman, eventually deeply regretted the attempted assassination and denounced violence as an anarchist modus operandi. Ultimately, she came to acknowledge a view similar that of Peter Kropotkin’s notion of mutual aid (expressed beautifully in Bill Wither’s inspiring song Lean on Me) and rejection of violence as “the natural consequence of repression and force”. Violence is, after all, a manifestation of power - which all anarchists reject.


During his lifetime, Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) was perhaps the most well-known and respected anarchist in Europe; but there were many others who, like Kropotkin, lived long revolutionary lives, much of it spent in prisons. The Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) was one of most persistent and vehement anarchist revolutionaries who, like Kropotkin, travelled throughout the world attempting to arouse the workers of the world to activism against the oligarchic capitalist oppressors and exploiters supported and facilitated by the corrupt capitalist state. Born to a middle class family in 1853, Malatesta’s radicalism began early when at the age of 14 he was arrested for writing a letter to King Victor Emmanuel II, complaining about local injustices. As an eighteen year old he was expelled from medical school for participating in a protest rally and one year later met Mikhail Bakunin in Switzerland. In 1877, together with fellow anarchists Andrea Costa and Carlo Cafiero, he led an armed group into two villages in Campania, where they burned the tax registers and declared an end to Victor Emmanuel's monarchical reign. The townspeople welcomed them but refused to join or support the insurrection; consequently their efforts and were subsequently crushed by the arrival of a military troop. In 1907 he attended an international anarchist conference in Amsterdam where he met Emma Goldman and Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958). While in England in 1909 Malatesta and Rocker were arrested and jailed for three months on charges of criminal libel. Malatesta is later ordered to be deported but the directive was rescinded when supporters organized a demonstration in Trafalgar Square.


He eventually decided to earn a living as an electrician and mechanic. He personally knew Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, but unlike either, lived to see the rise of European fascism. He was imprisoned many times, sentenced to death on three occasions and due to constant political persecution in Italy, he spent over half his adult life in exile. He lived in the Middle East, South America, United States and about 19 years in Britain. He died of natural causes in 1932 at the age of 79, having spent his last years under house arrest in Mussolini’s Italy. An extensive archive of his writings can be accessed here.


Victor Lvovich Kibalchich, better known by his pen name Victor Serge (1890 -1947), was born in Belgium in 1890 of two revolutionary Russian political émigrés. As a young man he travelled to France, where he published an individualist-anarchist paper. For sympathy to the anarchist cause, he affiliated with the infamous Bonnot gang, which referred to themselves as “illegalists”, while invoking the anarchist slogan of the time, “propaganda of the deed”. They committed bank robberies, deeming correctly that private banks were state sanctioned crime syndicates exploiting the poor. They would have agreed with Bertolt Brecht’s famous query, “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” The Bonnot gang engaged in shoot-outs with the police and even though not directly involved in the “deeds”, Serge was imprisoned in solitary confinement for five years. Including persecution in the USSR, he was to suffer more than ten years of prison in several countries, besides persecution in the Soviet Union. When he was released, he went to Spain where he participated with various anarchist groups in the failed 1917 rebellion against the Spanish monarchy and feudalistic landowning classes.  He eventually became disenchanted with anarchism because he felt it did not take seriously the need to overthrow state capitalist tyranny. In 1919 he went to Russia and joined the Bolshevik Party, participating in the defence of Petrograd from the White counter-revolutionary forces that were supported financially and militarily by fourteen capitalist countries including the USA, Canada, Japan, Britain and several other European countries.  Their objective was to crush the Russian Revolution and reinstate the monarchy, not unlike the monarchist armies that invaded France in 1793 during the midst of the French Revolution. Serge served in various capacities on the staff of the Communist International, in Russia, Germany, and Austria. Eventually, he joined the Leon Trotsky led Left Opposition.


Like Trotsky before him, in 1933 he was arrested by the Stalinist state police as an oppositionist and sent into internal exile. An international protest, especially by French intellectuals (André Gide, Romain Rolland, André Malraux, to name a few), persuaded Stalin to let him go to France in 1936,  just before the Moscow Purge Trials that executed so many of the original Bolsheviks of the Revolution. A little later and he would have been murdered as were Zinoviev, Bukharin and eventually Trotsky along with many of his family, including his son and daughter. He joined the Trotsky international organization (later to become the “Fourth International”), only to break with Trotsky by 1937. He gave support to one of the parties in the Spanish revolution and subsequent Civil War during the 1930s. After the 1940 German occupation of France, he fled to the south of France, and barely managed to escape with the help of Dwight and Nancy Macdonald from the United States. By 1941 was able to get to Mexico and eventually died in poverty and destitution from a heart attack in 1947 at age 57. His Memoirs of a Revolutionary and many other books are fascinating reads, one of best I have read. Year One of the Russian Revolution, for example, is the interesting story of his experiences in the Soviet Union.


Hierarchy and the Authoritarian Model in the Workplace


Although the nation state is the primary instrument of injustice, tyranny and class exploitation, for the sake of brevity, I will focus on only one of many familiar manifestations of hierarchy and authoritarianism in modern capitalist societies, one that most of us are personally familiar, namely the workplace.


Most of us have worked for sociopathic know nothing jerks called “bosses”, “supervisors” or “managers”. Why, you should ask yourself, do such superfluous wastes of human skin exist? Bosses and managers are not natural phenomena within real democratic human communities, but are rather manufactured to fill positions of power within organizational hierarchies. They possess no innate or learned talents, no special intellectual qualifications, are usually endowed with mediocre intelligence (in fact a lower IQ is generally preferred) and are not tried and tested through any sort of meritocratic system. Rather, they gravitate to these positions of authority by consciously exhibiting attributes that make them both controllable, compliant and controlling – being conservative, amoral, uncritical, compliant, punctual, fastidious, conformist, placing a premium on form and appearance, knowing how to talk sternly without saying much of anything and perhaps most important, blessed with the ability to bullshit and browbeat others into compliance and docility. But the most salient characteristic of such people is the psychopathic satisfaction they get by wielding power over others. Management vainly attempts to mitigate the oppressive workplace by invoking euphemisms such as “associate” (read, “wage slave”) and the notion of a team player as if the worker had some sort of real stake in the success of the company or which he toils. Some companies invent uplifting, yet vacuous sounding quasi-religious expressions such as, “mission statements”, slogans, corporate mottos and even mindless company songs to promote the false notion of solidarity. And to add insult to injury, we’re continually informed by our bosses and the big business controlled media that “we’re fortunate to have any job at all”.


Without solidarity and organization against bosses, workers are rendered powerless. The co-option, persecution and destruction of unions over the past 40 years or more have gone hand in hand with diminishing wages and off-shoring of manufacturing and even many highly skilled jobs. Since the neoliberal reactionary revolution that was ushered in by neo-fascists like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the share of workers who belong to unions in the private sector has fallen from 34% to 7% in the United States. Apparently 1 in 3 public sector workers are still in unions but overall union membership has plummeted, creating a disaster for the working classes and much of the middle class as well. Under capitalism, the only leverage a worker has is either (1) the government, or (2) a labour union. We have now reached the point whereby governments are now under total control by multi-millionaires, the banks and big corporations and thereby act solely in their interest. So appeals to government are exercises in futility; the government is now the one big union for capital. Workers unions have not only eroded, but those that have survived are mere shadows of their former incarnations. Most unions have been purged of their radical content and co-opted by a conservative corporate hierarchical structure in which often corrupt union executives are completely out of touch with the rank and file. Union leaders these days, in fact, tend to be in cahoots with corporate executives and the politicians who are bought off and manipulated by them. Corporations are clearly totalitarian structures, yet even our public schools and universities have been hijacked and “corporatized” with the business model being introduced as curriculums are reduced to third rate vocational programs.


Outside of parenting, human beings are not born with the inclination to be ruled, controlled, coerced, bossed, managed, manipulated, supervised and enslaved by other human beings. Hierarchies are artificial power constructs designed to serve a well-defined purpose. Authoritarian structures and hierarchies are necessary within any society, political order or human arrangement that engenders high degrees of wealth, privilege and power inequities. They are required for maintaining these inequities and sources of domination in order to ensure they are not challenged from the depths of the vast majority. The multitude needs to know their place in the social, political and economic pyramid. This is more or less the case with the so-called “justice” system that hires cops and prison guards with similar mediocre talents to browbeat the masses into submission and preserve the laws which are mere instruments serving the elite, crafted and written by and for the entitlements of wealth and power for the real criminals in capitalist states: the big monopolist corporations, larcenous banks and multi-millionaire stock market manipulators, con men, hucksters and their political sock puppets. These are the banal executives, bureaucrats and capitalist sociopathic thugs who operate at the very bottom of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.


Justice is and always has been a farce and today is a like everything else, a mere commodity that can be purchased by the highest bidder in the equally farcical state capitalist “free” market. It’s a rigged system that catches lots of minnows but lets the big fish and leviathans go free. Wealth and power are provided with permanent get out of jail free cards. The immoral corporatist degenerates who put profit before all else and their corporate controlled media, their bought and paid for conservative, typically Christian Evangelical politicians are also the climate change deniers who hire duplicitous engineers and biologists to deceive, manipulate and bullshit the unthinking masses about this impending ecological calamity despite the National Academy of Sciences telling us we are engaged in acts of mass suicide. Claiming neutrality on this important issue is dishonest because it implies accepting the cataclysmic status quo.


Moreover, governments and the purchased politicians who are now completely controlled by banks and corporations will rarely if ever, side with labour during disputes with the employer. Can anyone cite a single historical example? Laws, after all, are written to favour the business owners and workers, like our Indigenous peoples, are rarely consulted regarding the laws that affect them, laws crafted by corporate lawyers, bankers and their sock puppet politicians. The right to work laws such as the Taft-Hartley Act in the US have been instrumental in destroying the unions as more than 35% of worker are now part time precarious wage slaves. The recent tax laws passed by the Trump administration have given corporations and the wealthy oligarchy the keys to the American empire with $1.5 trillion (the actual amount is more than $5 trillion and likely even higher) in tax concessions which will contribute even further to the massive US national debt, growing economic inequality, privatization of the commons and the ongoing transition to the gig economy. In the United States during the past fifty years the reserve army of the unemployed has increased by over 70 million or 114% and globally, the number of unemployed increased by 780 million, or 111%. As this reserve army increases, the level of poverty increases proportionately. According to UNICEF, over 22,000 children die every day due to poverty and 1.3 billion live on less than $1.25 per day in conditions of extreme poverty. The U.S. accounts for 5% of the world’s population, yet over 25% of the incarcerated; over 2 million people, many of them due to the criminalization of poverty and drugs, are incarcerated in the increasingly privatized prison system. Fifty percent of the labour force earns less than $27,000 per year and the bottom 90% of the population has less wealth than the top one tenth of one percent; yes, that’s 0.1%. Eighty percent of the population are struggling, living from pay check to pay check and the student debt has reached $1.3 trillion. The bloated U.S. military is the biggest employer in the world with 2.2 million gangsters working and dying for corporate capitalism in their imperialist wars of pillage and plunder. Thanks to the “land of the free” empire, millions have been killed and over 60 million people have been displaced by never-ending imperialist war with over 160 million others living outside their countries of origin. Under the dictatorship of neo-liberal global capitalism, more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day as 55 million Americans are employed in the gig economy.


Millions of migrant serfs, primarily those impoverished elderly people who gave the best years of their lives to work, yet cannot afford to retire, eke out a living by living nomadic lives in make-shift refugee trailer camps which predatory mega-corporations such as Amazon set up ad hoc in the parking lots of their massive warehouses. Here, the workers are constantly monitored, harassed and chased away by asshole cops who are doing their duty serving and protecting wealth and power. Because their social security checks are generally less than $1,000 a month, many will make ends meet by working at these massive chain gang warehouses, many of them making a minimum wage in exchange for robotic mind destroying ten hour workdays. They can be fired without notice and are not paid extra if they take longer than the prescribed time to complete their assigned work regimen. Sadly, these elderly workers are forced to compete with younger workers who are in their prime working years who cannot find meaningful work at liveable wages.  But they are so humiliated and defeated, that they will often say that they are happy with what they can get as they are subjected to abuse and exploitation to pad the already obscene profits of their slave driver. Capitalism not only produces misery and impoverishment for all but a privileged and pampered corporate bureaucratic oligarchy, but it has absolutely no desire to promote the common good and help unfortunates in a state of desperation. In this respect, the working conditions of the gig economy are reminiscent of the horrible working conditions experienced during the Great Depression, graphically documented by John Steinbeck in his novel The Grapes of Wrath and memorialized and updated in Bruce Springsteen’s song Ghost of Tom Joad. During the 1930s in San Francisco there is a well known and often cited incident in which a 700 pound load accidentally dropped on the foot of a longshoreman, crushing several bones. Employers placed the worker on the no hire blacklist because they argued, he had fragile bones. This story was not an isolated case and we are returning to those draconian unsafe deregulated conditions in the workplace today. Sixty-five percent of Americans have less than $1000 in savings and 44% of those have less than $400; retirement for these people will happen when they die.


The Inefficiencies, Paradoxes and Uselessness of Workplace Hierarchies and Phony Leadership


While hierarchies serve a utility function with regard to how they relate to the broader society, they also develop internal cultures that reflect and mimic the unequal power relations that have come to characterize our society and political apparatus under capitalism. These internal cultures promote competition among workers by creating an exclusive managerial class that must be filled by a select few. In order to satisfy the inherent power imbalances that exist within all hierarchies that create arbitrary positions of authority, these authority positions are advertised as being available to those who "qualify," and encourage a certain type of person to pursue these positions in exchange for material gain. In this pursuit, however, contradictions, conflict and inefficiencies naturally arise.


In a professional capacity, whether we're talking about the public or private realm, people climb the proverbial corporate ladder for two reasons: (a) to make more money and (b) to work less. The narrow-minded pursuit of wealth, authority and power, whether conscious or subconscious, essentially lies within these two fundamental objectives that are inherent to human beings who are placed within hierarchical (competitive, rather than cooperative) systems defined by capitalist corporate culture. In other words, when forced into a top-down organizational structure, it becomes natural to want to be paid more and work less. The often-subconscious attraction of acquiring a position of authority and domination is the singular motivation that surrounds the material aspirations of people who seek power. While the uncivilized psychopathic/sociopathic act of exercising power over another human being may elevate one’s self-esteem, this form of psychosis ultimately usually operates secondary to the remuneration and material benefits that are generally associated with power. Therefore, it is safe to assume that if material benefits did not accompany positions of authority, they likely would not exist.


Regardless of this inclination, there are still many people who have no interest in climbing the smarmy corporate ladder. Ironically, these people, for one reason or another, are more beholden to the natural human inclination to solidarity, friendship, moral and intellectual autonomy and cooperation. They are either able to see beyond the self-centered pursuit of power (money and comfort) and are simply ethically repelled by it, or they are just not interested in exploiting, alienating and eventually supervising others (some of whom may have been close friends) for personal gain. Their mothers may have taught them the golden rule. In turn, those who choose to seek power (money and comfort) - those who are willing to spend time and energy climbing the slimy ladder of money and power - do so in a purely self-serving way. I reiterate; they simply want to make more money and work less. Therefore they have no moral sensibilities or twinges of conscience about assuming positions of artificial superiority over their fellow workers, and thus do whatever it takes to achieve that status of the bullshit supervisory positions within the organization. This typically includes a lot of lickspittle and ass kissing. In my own former workplace of the senior high school, these were alleged career teachers who wanted to escape the classroom and do whatever it took to obtain an administrative position either within the school, the school board or even the increasingly corrupt teacher’s union. Fellow career teachers referred to them as “moles”, “toadies” and “yes men”, those who never questioned or challenged their “superiors” on any issue or spoke out against injustices, of which there were many. These power hungry sycophants were not hard to recognize. They are generally the first to become scabs during a strike, run to management like rat finks for any perceived violation of company rules by colleagues, call the cops on their neighbour, are servants to power at every opportunity, obediently wave the flag and sing the national anthem, beat the drum for every imperialistic war and vote conservative in the sham elections of our so-called democracies. The dynamic, however, creates an interesting paradox, as the most hypocritical self-serving obsequious and compliant members of an organization inevitably gravitate to the top of the hierarchy. Not surprisingly they were also those with the least interest in intellectual pursuits or remaining in the classroom as career teachers (which I assume was their original aspiration). Consequentially, while organizations theoretically consist of groups of people in solidarity working toward a common goal, this natural phenomenon based in hierarchical ascendancy inevitably destroys any hopes of a collective will, while also breeding a culture of incompetence, as those self-serving moles who aspire to cushy positions of higher pay and less work in a supervisory capacity.


This culture of incompetence almost invariably comes to the forefront, as a majority of workers will inevitably experience it through daily occurrences of redundancy, inefficiency and frustration. When there is real work to be done, bosses almost inevitably seek refuge in their lavish offices. When crises invariably arise, bosses do not take it upon themselves to become critical thinkers and engage in the tough intellectual toil required (they are not, in any event critical thinkers since this is a detriment to arbitrary authority and management), but rather explain the crisis or injustice away with expressions such as “shit happens” and demand more work from those below. In most cases, bosses become so far removed from the actual work and purpose of an organization that they essentially alienate themselves. As this disconnect increases, so too does the culture of incompetence. And with the tendency for animosity to develop from the majority of the workforce that is perceived to be at the bottom, the only option for those who seek to control, supervise, and manage other human beings is to instil fear in their subjects. At this stage, trust is non-existent, organizational problems are always reduced to workers not doing enough and solutions are always rooted in disciplinary action. Moreover, this phenomenon creates a natural inefficiency as those who are paid more money are essentially contributing less to the “mission”. In the case of so-called supervisory and management positions, this inefficiency becomes two-fold by not only creating a scenario where the organization is getting less for more, but also seeking more for less from the majority of its browbeaten workforce (since this void must be filled somewhere). With this realization, we can see that hierarchies are not only unnatural forms of organization, but also inefficient and incompetent ones. Their purpose for existing lies in controlling this unnatural environment predicated upon massive inequities of power and wealth. However, beyond this need to reinforce the coercive nature of society, they are useless from within.


This paradoxical existence is thus forced to construct mythological purposes for the arbitrary power positions that serve no real purpose internally, yet must maintain and mimic the power relations that exist externally. Ironically, wielding fear through micromanagement and the constant threat of disciplinary action or dismissal ultimately become this artificial purpose. Fear is an effective tried and true method of control. And it convinces those who occupy power positions that workers are inherently slackers and, therefore, must be treated as naughty children and prodded like cattle. The irony arises in the fact that any expression of so-called laziness or a lack of effort from the depths of the rank and file almost always is the result of widespread animosity toward those who wield power from above for the sole purpose of inflating their bank accounts and doing less work. Human beings simply do not respond to arbitrary positions of authority - often candy-coated phoney “leadership” positions - because such positions are counterproductive and serve no function in any real sense of organized collective effort. Most people know how to do their jobs and don’t need superfluous oversight by overpaid drones who usually know precious little of what the worker actually does and how he does it.  Frankly put, the mere existence of these bullshit management positions is an insult to all of those who perform the real work from the trenches.


The totalitarianism inherent in corporate structures is defined and preserved by the hierarchy and these structures stretch far beyond for-profit private enterprises. In an attempt to justify arbitrary positions of power, business organizations often portray them as leadership positions, deploying corporate doublespeak and bullshit like “team leaders”, “officers” or “coordinators” in their hierarchical pyramid. The problem with this is that leadership, in any true sense, is an absolute contradiction with respect to power; and especially from its typically arbitrary forms. The acquisition of money and idleness that become synonymous with climbing the bureaucratic ranks make leadership roles impossible for those who fill these positions to be in any way meaningful. Never mind that the term "leadership" itself often includes connotations of superiority, or at the very least, attempts to differentiate oneself from the rabble. Leadership can never be arbitrarily assigned through promotions or fiat proclamation. If genuine leaders truly exist among people, they only do so through a form of facilitating and are those people trusted and elected by their peers. And it may only develop organically, as the result of unplanned developments springing from natural occurrences of facilitation from within a group. Leaders are facilitators that may provide organic direction in a group, and are always those who exhibit a selfless willingness to take on much of the work and effort, or at the very least their share of the collective effort, while expecting nothing of individual recompense in return. Dictating from behind a desk or uniform with stripes or epaulets is not leadership. Screaming down from an elevated supervisory booth is not leadership. Micromanaging, analyzing, grading and calibrating labour productivity is not leadership. It’s authoritarian bullshit.


The fact that hierarchies remain the predominant organizational structure throughout capitalist society tells us two things: (1) they are the most effective structure for exerting control and compliance; and (2) control and compliance are the most desirable characteristic of any organization existing under state capitalist tyranny. The inherent cultures of illegitimacy, incompetence and contradictions which develop within these hierarchical structures remain a secondary concern to that of maintaining control. And by masking this controlled environment through corporate jargon and doublespeak, organizations are often able to stoke a cognitive dissonance among its workforce that simultaneously emits a healthy dose of faith in the “we’re in this together” horse crap team approach by day while complaining about the incompetent and overbearing bosses at the pub after work. This is accomplished through a redefinition or rebranding of arbitrary power to justify it with the appearance of a non-existent meritocracy and subjugate it by transforming self-serving management drones and banal mediocrities into leaders. The insidious nature of this rebranding even goes as far as trying to convince those in arbitrary positions of power that they not only belong there, but invariably serve an important role. The natural insecurities that develop within managers and supervisors who are nagged by a never-ending paranoia about being exposed as the superfluous frauds they are, are put at ease with cycles upon cycles of leadership seminars and mounds of self-help pabulum that call on their subconscious inner-dictator to seize the day.


Despite these contrived efforts to establish competence and confidence, those in arbitrary positions of power within a hierarchy are undoubtedly reminded of their impotence and futility during the course of each work day. The material benefits that come with these positions are typically all that's needed to cope with this stark realization; however, the managerial contradictions and inefficiencies always remain, and with them enduring fissures seeping with animosity and fearfulness from below and insecurity and paranoia from above. There is simply no getting past the fact that the mere act of supervising and often humiliating another person is inhumane, because its purpose is premised on the belief that people are inherently and typically lazy, stupid, dishonest, irresponsible and incompetent. Or, at the very least, the existence of supervision confirms the coercive and inhumane nature of both traditional labour and authoritarian models of human association. Surveillance and supervision are only indispensable in a world where workers are viewed as docile sheep to be prodded, pushed, poked, manipulated, cajoled and led by the nose. The fact that those placed with the unpleasant tasks of supervision and scrutiny possess no special skills or talents only makes this relationship even more fraudulent, superfluous and precarious, as those being supervised will almost always recognize the illegitimacy of their alleged superior bosses. Whether through interviews or examinations, there is no way to find people suitable for supervising others because, quite honestly, they are redundancies and simply ought to not exist in a genuine democratic environment whether in the workplace or elsewhere.


Final Thoughts


Despite some of its currently perceived flaws, Sigmund Freud introduced psychoanalysis to inquire into individual pathology and weaknesses but later in his life also strived to understand civilization’s discontents. Freud, an atheist, humanist, physician, scientist, social democrat and man of the Enlightenment, believed that religion is one of the primary obstacles to human liberation and intellectual autonomy and an area of human thought in which empirical evidence and rationality are systematically rejected. In his 1927 anti-religious pamphlet, The Future of an Illusion, Freud, as many others had done before him, not only exposed the delusions, irrationality and superstitious nature of religious belief in supernatural phenomena and entities such as God, but he went a step further by attempting to explain such irrationality and its blind deference to arbitrary power. Responding to their experiences of impotence and vulnerability, Freud suggested that humans, like children, vainly seek the protection of an all-powerful patriarchal figure that will immunize them from contingency, suffering and ultimate death and assure an orderly just world. God, as conceived in monotheistic traditions such as Christianity, is idealized in an authoritarian narcissistic vindictive alpha male promising the delusional reward of a life after death. But awaiting those who violated his divine command laws is eternal tortuous punishment, even for transgressions such as the failure to believe in and worship God and his absolute dominion.


Like indoctrination, guilt has always played a major psychological role in Christianity and other sources of control, power and tyrannical rule. But accepting guilt such as the myth of “original sin” that has no rational basis or evidential support cannot possibly make anyone a more psychologically healthy or liberated human being. Surely it is foolish and illogical to accept guilt for a desire on which one does not act and has no intention of acting. Moreover, it is a masochistic affliction, also cited by Freud, in the sense of being a self-loathing submissive longing for strong autocratic men, real or imagined, to lead them by the nose, tell them how to live and to tyrannize and abuse them as though they are livestock or human chattel. Freud referred to religion as a “childhood neurosis” and many workplace environments and political regimes, including global corporate capitalism, are horrifyingly consistent with the hierarchical monotheistic model. One of the central axioms of Christian doctrine is that human nature has been profoundly corrupted by the mythical fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their crime it would seem was curiosity and the desire to know. This transgression led to the conclusion that internalized guilt, repression, terror and tyranny are necessary to civilize a disobedient and thoroughly depraved humanity. Far from being polar opposites, terror and civilization are intimately bound together. The assumption is that terror, whether, political, physical, spiritual or psychological, is the key to success of civilization, all of which throughout history have been authoritarian and tyrannical. Fear of violence and death, fear of the torturer, boss, priest, police, prison and executioner keep the rabble in line. Civilization succeeds because power destroys perceived brutality with even greater brutality. The worst atrocities have been perpetrated by those who have offered grandiose, sublime and noble salvation plans so magnificent that they are worthy of every sacrifice, hardship, suffering and abomination. Christianity and Islam are prime exemplars of such exalted ideals, combining treachery with a clear conscience. The resurgence of militant Islam has led many Christians to imagine that Christianity is a civilized religion of love and peace in comparison to the barbarism of Islam. It is time in the West to stop deluding itself that Christianity is superior to Islam. It is neither more moderate nor less dogmatic and violent. It’s time Christians read their sacred book from cover to cover and study the long history of wars, crusades, persecution, tyranny, torture and mass murder. Freedom and any democracy we’ve had in the West have been achieved in spite of Christianity and not because of it.


In a recent internet posting subtitled “The Final Corporate Takeover of Humanity”, Nozomi Hayase summed up our precarious predicament in an age of financial tyranny and corporate dictatorship:


“Now, in Trump’s America, the fiction of corporate personhood finds a new iteration to make its dream great again. As the nation consolidates power with the new administration, we all become contestants in The Apprentice. In this grandiose Reality Show, we are told to mimic corporate personhood, to be cunning and self-serving or we will be fired. The world of Wall Street entices all to a path of personal power, filled with ambition, vanity and pride. Plundering through exploitative business practices and addictive gambling of high frequency trading becomes a way of life. Corruption is rife with rampant greed and sexual conquest.

Inside 9-5 office hours of white collar jobs, relationships became impersonal and transactional, where people are forced to hide real emotions behind professional masks. In this supposed free market competition that bars entry to immigrants, people of color and trans-genders, workers are trained to mind their own business by climbing up the ladder of success in a rat race of profit at any cost. Deep inside the labyrinth of organizational hierarchies, we are cut off from our own authentic feelings and lose the ground of consensual reality. We no longer are held accountable by feedback of others.


Now, with depletion of resources and environmental destruction, the life of the American dream is becoming unsustainable. As the fantasy of corporate personhood is losing its fuel, it seems to be carried into a vision of techno-utopianism. Through mass surveillance and authoritarian use of police force, the corporate state has been attacking privacy and autonomy of individuals. From face recognition technology and biometrics used at borders to AI augmented cyber-security and auto flying drones, it further mechanizes this world. The goal is no longer just total control of the world to create an ever more perfect world, but to control human nature itself by reprogramming our biology to create a perfect self.


As the disfranchised middle class is slowly waking up from their insulated reality and starting to face their broken life, trans-humanism offers all a short cut to nirvana. From the magic of genetic modification to the creation of the mind file, through making humans directly interface with the net, technology is presented to rescue us, trying to numb throbbing aches in the arteries that carry the ebb and flow of our human experience.”


End Notes:


[1a] Many revolutions, such as the dozens that broke out in 1789 in France, followed by 1848 throughout Europe and other regions of the world such as South America, were launched against oppressive doctrinaire ideological state bureaucracies. Currently, the entire world is faced with one of the most overpowering manifestations in history, referred to as neo-liberal corporate capitalism. It’s a global hegemonic world order underwritten by the state, of which the United States is the leading prototype and its global policeman. In fact, this New World Order was itself the result of a reactionary stealth counter-revolution initiated by people such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who herself declared that “there is no society”, only isolated automatons driven by greed and acquisitiveness. But despite claims to the contrary, this system is supported by state and global bureaucracies that make Tsarist or Stalinist Russia pale in comparison in both scale and by its authoritarian nature. Neo-liberalism is nothing new, but rather a regression to a former American era dominated by plutocratic Robber Barons, a sordid period of American plunder that Mark Twain called the Gilded Age. Neo-liberalism is a corrupt period dominated by a revival of the long-since-abandoned nineteenth-century ideology that held that free markets (and the god-given sanction to exploit both the natural environment, other countries and other human beings) and human freedom are essentially the same thing.


But Neo-liberalism is plagued by a nagging central paradox by declaring that economic imperatives are to take priority over all else, including public spheres such as education. All human endeavours are to be arbitrated and dictated by the market, which has become the metaphorical deity of a new dogma. Politics has merely become a matter of facilitating conditions for growing the economy by allowing the mysticism of the invisible hand of the marketplace to do its nefarious work. All other hopes and dreams - of equality, solidarity, security, family, friends, meaningful work with benefits, pension and liveable wages, recreation and free time - are to be sacrificed for the primary goal of economic growth and production of superfluous “stuff”, most of which ends up in landfills within a few months. But global economic performance over the last three or four decades has been decidedly mediocre, not even close to the growth in the 30 years following World War II which was also saw increased benefits and prosperity for the working and middle classes. Families now require two people working 50-60 hours a week in some cases just to make ends meet. Buying a home is, for most, impossible. Even by its own standards, the regressive project has been a colossal failure, creating endless war economies, wage slavery and unprecedented levels of economic inequality, suffering and impoverishment. And rather than diminishing bureaucracy, it has increased exponentially, intervening in 2008 with trillions of dollars in bailouts of the global banking and financial vampires responsible for the worldwide debacle. The World Bank, WTO, IMF, G20, European Union and countless other monster bureaucracies now insure that the “masters of mankind”, as Adam Smith called them, the insatiable vultures of capitalism can run rampant looting the world and exploiting cheap labour with impunity.


Democracy is, of course, a rotting corpse; that is, what minimalist democracy we once enjoyed for brief periods such as the post World War II era. Some economists estimate that a quarter of the American population is now engaged in surveillance, “guard labour”, prison and police work of one sort or another defending wealth and power and bullshit jobs supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Economically, most of this disciplinary apparatus is pure dead weight from the perspective of the 99%. What would happen if we stopped acting as if the primordial form of work laboring at an assembly line, farming factory, contaminating fossil fuel or mining operation or even in an office cubicle and instead started from a mother, a teacher, physician, nurse or caregiver? We might be forced to conclude that a real flourishing meaningful human life is not contributing toward some vague abstraction called “the economy”, a concept that didn’t even exist three hundred years ago, but rather the fact that we are all, and have always been, projects of cooperation, solidarity, mutual creation and building of communities dedicated to the common good of all. Labor must be rethought and renegotiated. And after all, there's no intrinsic value in work, contrary to what many believe. Submitting oneself to labor discipline - supervision, control, even the self-control of the ambitious self-employed entrepreneur - does not make one a better person; in fact in important ways, it probably makes one a whole lot worse. To undergo it is a misfortune that at best is sometimes necessary, yet it’s only when we reject the idea that work has intrinsic value (especially those in superfluous supervisory and managerial bullshit roles) that we can start to ask what is virtuous about labor. Labor is valuable if it helps not only ourselves our families and friends, but to the rest of the world.


[1] Sartre observed that throughout the course of history the holders of wealth, power and privilege have not willingly abandoned their positions of domination, and that it has almost invariably been the case that they had to be violently removed. Human history is, whether we like it or not, the history of violence, and our present injustices, gruesome inequalities and entitlements of elites are rooted in violence. In Algeria for example and later in Vietnam, he refused to compare the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressors. As he wrote:


During the Algerian war I always refused to make a parallel between the terrorist use of bombs, the only weapon available to the Algerians, and the actions and extortions of a rich army of half a million, which occupied the entire country. It’s the same in Vietnam.


The text often quoted to highlight Sartre’s alleged support for violence is his preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. The language is bellicose and at times provocative, but Sartre has consistently repeated the point that the violence of the national liberation struggle is a product of, and response to, the pre-existing violence and brutality of colonialism:


For at first it is not their violence, it is ours, which turns back on itself and rends them… It is the moment of the boomerang, it is the third phase of violence; it comes back on us, it strikes us, and we do not realise any more than we did the other times that it’s us who have launched it. We have sown the wind: he [the peasant fighter] is the whirlwind… If violence began this very evening and if exploitation and oppression had never existed on the earth, perhaps the slogans of non-violence might end the quarrel.


Sartre was first practically confronted with the questions of violence and terrorism during the German occupation of France during the Second World War. The PCF (Parti Communiste Français), like the Iraqi resistance today against the United States occupation, had a policy of killing as many occupying Nazi soldiers as possible. Often the PCF was in fact sending its own members to a certain death, so there is a parallel with the Islamic suicide bombers in the occupied countries of the Middle East. Moreover, the Nazis executed hostages in response to attacks by the French Resistance (primarily members of the French Communist Party). Sartre commented in 1944 that, when he wrote The Flies, “the real drama, the drama I should have liked to write, was that of the terrorist who by ambushing Germans becomes the instrument for the execution of 50 hostages”. Though Sartre saw the necessity for violent armed resistance to an invading force, he was not entirely satisfied with the means advocated by the PCF.


[2] Howard Zinn writes in the introduction to his play on Emma Goldman, Emma "seemed to be tireless as she traveled the country, lecturing to large audiences everywhere, on birth control ("A woman should decide for herself"), on the falsity of marriage as an institution ("Marriage has nothing to do with love"), on patriotism ("the last refuge of a scoundrel") on free love ("What is love if not free?") and also on the drama, including Shaw, Ibsen, and Strindberg. This book will be of immense interest to feminists, American historians, and people interested in the long history of resistance and protest in the United States.  


Emma Goldman was not only the most important anarchist of the 20th century, but also the most interesting, provocative and brilliant female intellectual. Having a strong sense of injustice, she reviled the anti-democratic nature of capitalism and its partner offshoots, war and imperialism and despised both the police and military, rightly deeming them mere instruments of wealth and power. She was an advocate of free speech, birth control, women’s rights and unionization and with regard to the forms of representative governments she considered them fraudulent forms of democracy in her own era as they surely are today - and steadily becoming more oppressive and exploitive with the emergence of hyper-capitalism and their adjuncts the extreme right wing and neo-fascism in both Europe and the United States. She refused to participate in farcical elections, claiming that, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”


[3] The emergence of corporations in America after the Civil War, the charters of which were underwritten and granted legal status by the American business class oligarchs in  government, instituted new manifestations of hierarchy,  authoritarianism, exploitation, greed and illegitimate power. With the more recent SCOTUS Citizen’s United Decision, corporations now have more rights than ordinary flesh and blood American citizens. In the post Civil War era, Robber Barons were the personification of capitalist accumulation, oppression and barbarity. Under the new world order of untrammelled laissez-faire neo-liberalism, the new Gilded Age of Robber Barons has been unleashed again, but this time on a global scale. Only a revolution from below can put a stop to this corruption and tyranny. The efforts at reform by social democratic political parties have been an abysmal failure. One cannot put a human face on an insatiable monster. The notion of “public relations” (aka indoctrination and propaganda) had not yet been conceived by the Gilded Age industrialists and financial con men so with the help of state police, hired goons and the military they would openly and violently repress and crush worker strikes and protests. The state was, after all, firmly within their control, as it is today with the wealthy elites, banks, financial behemoths and modern corporations. It was the dissent and revolutionary fervour of the early 20th century that prompted the manipulative minds of the rich and powerful within America to consider concepts and mechanisms of social control, thereby laying the foundations for the emergence of advertising, marketing, indoctrination, propaganda and various forms of social engineering (churches, schools and corporate mass media, etc.) as manifestations of cultural hegemony.


The concept of “cultural hegemony” is a form of social control introduced by Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci which is generally considered to be the   dominant culture of elites. Ruling classes throughout history have relied on both formal and informal channels to mould a dominant culture or ideology that supports and validates their rule and that is assimilated by the masses. In capitalist systems this can be instituted and inculcated through a formal education system, corporate media sources, organized religion and churches, and so on. Under capitalism, this doesn't have to be done in a conspiratorial kind of way because the basic inequities stemming from the economic system create a socio-political structure that mimics and protects these inequities through social, cultural, political, and legal systems. One of the results of this is a widespread, conditioned false belief that we are not capable of caring for ourselves, our families, and our communities and thus need so-called extraordinary people (politicians and business elites) to do this for us.


The end game of this process is that the empire of the United States has become a full-blown fascist police state. People can be duped, pacified and controlled by endless propaganda for only so long.


Further Reading:


Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: The History of Anarchism


George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements


Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary


Emma Goldman, Essays in Anarchism


Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader: Essays on Disobedience and Democracy


Howard Zinn, Emma


Noam Chomsky, On Anarchism


Anarchism Part I:




Anarchism Part II:





Noam Chomsky on Bakunin’s Prediction:




Noam Chomsky interviewed on Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and why anarchist ideas have not been more popular:




David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology


David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy


Carne Ross. The Leaderless Revolution


Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practise


Paul and Karen Avrich, Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman

Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy


Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists


Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America


Daniel Guérin and Mary Klopper, Anarchism from Theory to Practise


Daniel Guérin, ed., No Gods No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism 

Peter Kropotkin, A Collection of Revolutionary Writings

Peter Kropotkin, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal

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