On Friday, Teen Vogue author Kim Kelly ran a piece that she titled “Anarchy: What It Is and Why Pop Culture Loves It”. In it, she attempts to answer both of those questions. However, her perspective is nowhere near accurate. Frankly, it makes her look like she does not understand a thing about the general principles of anarchism. Here, unlike Kelly, from an actual teen, is a real representation of anarchy’s ideology of peace.
The Ideology Without an Ideology
Initially, Kelly correctly states that the media often believes that anarchy is a no-rules, middle-fingers-up attitude. But the second she begins explaining what is really is, the logic falls off of the block.
Her claim that “anarchism is a radical, revolutionary leftist political ideology…” is partly true. Yes, it is both radical and revolutionary, of course. Like any great threat to the state, it is a fringe group that proposes radical ideas for change. However, anarchism has absolutely no inherent association with the left or the right.
Ultimately, anarchism deals with the abolition of the state. Before it is left, right, or anything else, it is anti-state. Anarchists believe that the state inherently restricts the abilities of people to freely associate with each other. However, they are very much divided on whether they believe in a free market or voluntarily controlled economy.
Kelly points this out, later going through a list of various anarchist views of thought. Despite this, she only paints half of the picture, basically stating that anarcho-capitalism is a fringe ideology that most other anarchists do not recognize. While this is true, she forgets that all forms of anarchism are pretty fringe. Note that not a single major politician today identifies with any of the varying forms.
Moreover, she fails to state that anarcho-capitalists often do not consider anarcho-communists to be legitimate, due to their belief that communism, and the associated collectivism, are inherently at odds with the idea of freedom.
In the end, though, anarchism is not a political ideology. Without a state, politics does not exist. Individuals would merely associate freely with each other in the communities that they desired to live in.
What Anarchism Really Is
In her entire piece, Kelly does not once mention the most critical point of anarchism: it is a rejection of the initiation of violence. Whether that violence comes in the form of capitalism, regulations, war, taxation, or the police, (or all of the above) anarchists agree that the state is an aggressive institution that should not exist in a free society. All of them desire a society where they can live in peaceful freedom, and all recognize that the state is the biggest threat to that freedom.
The differences only come from the fact that each views the state slightly differently. Some anarchists believe it to be a form of capitalist greed, or elitist power, or military might. Others may find it to be an organization that steals inherently from the people to fund things like social safety nets.
Anarchists also inherently oppose war, believing that they are antithetical to freedom. Though opposing war has been a very key part of anarchism, dating back to the more radical members of Vietnam War protests, Kelly fails to point this out in any capacity. She instead focuses on an interesting term that has absolutely nothing to do with anarchy.
Anarchy is NOT Democracy
One of Kelly’s most prominent assertions is the idea that anarchy is a radical democracy. This simply could not be farther from the truth, and democracy is, in fact, impossible in an anarchist society.
When it comes down to it, the two terms are entirely incompatible. Democracy, of course, is a system where the people vote directly on laws and events. Notable examples include the ancient Greek state of Athens, famous for putting Socrates to death over his differing beliefs. Anarchism, on the other hand, removes all forms of coercive power. In such a system, no majority of people can simply decide to kill a man for being different, or corrupting the youth. But in a democracy, this is entirely possible, and, clearly, happened on a number of occasions. When it comes down to it, democracy is nothing more than the state’s tyranny of the majority. Anarchy, though, opposes coercive tyrannies of all forms, including democracy.
In short: democracy is a form of government. Anarchy is a lack of government. A government cannot exist in a society without government.
Antifascism and Anarchism
Following the flawed point on democracy, Kelly then claims that all anarchists are anti-fascist. Technically, this is not untrue but is essentially just a monotonous and repetitive talking point to garner more support. Fascism, again, like democracy, is a form of government. Kelly does not seem to realize that anarchism opposes all forms of governments, for if she did, she would not need to spend any additional time addressing particular forms. More strikingly, she would certainly not, as an opponent of the state, support a form of government.
It is also worth noting that antifascism does not necessarily imply support for Antifa groups. Though Kelly voices her support for them, she again only shows one side of things. Many anarchists, in fact, oppose Antifa just as much as they oppose fascism. As Antifa often supports violence, especially against those they claim to be fascist, peaceful anarchists tend to oppose them, as they do all forms of violence.
A Weak Definition From a Fake Anarchist
To summarize, it is not enough to be an enemy of the current state to be an anarchist. To fall under the definition, you need to oppose all forms of government and believe that governments are an inherently immoral institution.
Kelly does point this out in her piece, but at the same time, does not support her own ideas, and voices clear support for democracy, a coercive form of government. She also endorses Antifa, an organization that has behaved violently in the past, even though she claims to oppose the violence of the state. A clear supporter of both state and anti-state violence, her actions are in no way consistent with her words.
Kelly’s ideology proves to be very dangerous, and if the anarchist community ever wants to see ideologically sound success, they should steer very clear of it. Democracy is not anarchy, and violence is not anarchy. The very suggestion of such makes it quite obvious that Kelly either does not understand what anarchism is, or does, but is not an anarchist herself. In either situation, take her words with warning, as they are nothing more than violence and government action under the guise of radicalism.
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