Seattle Anarchists –– New age leaders or next-gen tyrants?
There’s a fundamental problem with anarchy––and it’s the responsibility of the anarchists to solve it if they want to win more of us to their cause. The problem is anarchists inevitably become the oppressive authority they’re trying to overthrow.
Protesters in Seattle have claimed “several city blocks” in the name of the people. They’ve submitted a list of “demands” that need to be satisfied in order to retreat from the occupied territory.
From the New York Times: "This space is now property of the Seattle people," read a banner on the front entrance of the now-empty police station. The entire area was now a homeland for racial justice — and, depending on the protester one talked to, perhaps something more.”
This space has been named “CHAZ” by the protesters. This stands for “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone.” Who is in charge is not exactly clear, but there are many reports of armed protesters patrolling and keeping order, at least their vision of order.
“There’s no singular central organization or person that’s leading all of this,” said one area resident according to a report in the Seattle Times. “…autonomy (on Capitol Hill) depending on the person, it means so many different things.”
Anarchy by definition means “having no ruler.” That’s where the genuine anarchist always runs into the ultimate conundrum. How can you “organize” genuine anarchy? Why does it take “leaders” to inspire anarchy, and why do “leaders” always emerge in the midst of anarchy?
Back to the Seattle Times report by Evan Bush:
“Sarah Tornai, a demonstrator leading by microphone Tuesday, called for pragmatic organization so demonstrators remain safe and in control of the area.”
Apparently it’s difficult to sustain anarchy without organization and it’s difficult to organize without leadership.
I’m not trying to be snarky here––this is a real problem.
The other major problem here is the claim that the CHAZ was taken over to make it “property of the Seattle people.” The police station and city hall at the center of the Zone is public property. Wasn’t it already property of “the people?” By definition, that’s what public property is.
It also seems like a lot of private property got swept up in the excitement too. An anarcho-communist would have no problem with this happy coincidence. Since they eschew any claims to private property, they would simply be liberating that property for “the people” and they usually sincerely believe it’s for the greater good.
In another interesting twist, there are now fears that another group is planning an assault on the protesters to counter-liberate the area. This group has also flown the anarchy banner when it suits their needs––the white supremacists. They are conveniently anarchist when they oppose any government interference in their activities, but strangely supportive of authoritarian methods when it suits their ends.
The historic record is clear. Anarchy is unsustainable without authority. It is seldom sustainable without force.
So the ultimate conundrum the anarchist need to address is how they justify their own use of force in order to eradicate authoritarian force.
Not to get into the political philosophy weeds, but the libertarian or classical liberal has no such conundrum. The use of force is justified when––and only when––it’s used to gain, protect and defend individual liberty. There is an acknowledgement that no matter how necessary it might be, government is by definition a mechanism to apply force. That’s why the powers and authority of any government must be clearly specified, limited and subject to constant scrutiny and skepticism.