Center for a Stateless Society
A Left Market Anarchist Think Tank & Media Center
Direct Action is Key

Residents of the Florida Keys, an island chain potentially threatened by the ongoing BP oil disaster, are taking matters into their own hands. It’s a safe bet that most of them aren’t anarchists, but their actions provide support for anarchist ideas.

Nathan Thornburgh’s Time.com article, In Florida Keys, Residents Plan Their Own Spill Cleanup, shows locals fed up with authoritarian bureaucrats, and challenging state and corporate control of the disaster area.

The Florida Keys residents’ disaster response appears to be an example of voluntary cooperation in action. Individuals are taking the initiative to work with each other based on their personal interest and ability. This involves training, clearing beaches to make potential oil cleanup easier, and organizing response teams. Actions are taken in the spirit of mutual aid as individuals recognize that working with each other is in their mutual interest.

Direct action, another idea related to anarchism, is taking place in the Keys. Residents are bypassing the obstructions that authority has placed in the way, and affecting changes through their own efforts. They will protect their environment whether or not the authorities who insist on complete control give them permission.

Direct action has also won concessions from BP. After community members showed up uninvited to a meeting involving city officials and BP residents, they were promised that BP would pay $10,000 to fund hazardous materials training for 100 people. Not a ton of money for the Fortune-ranked fourth largest company in the world, but it will probably make a difference to local preparedness.

Keys residents appear unwilling to let their concerns go unheeded. One local was quoted as warning BP, “If you come down here and start doing what you’ve done in Louisiana, you’re going to have a revolt. They’ll shut down U.S. 1. You won’t be able to bring any of your contractors in or out.”

A small, but significant revolt against power has already taken place in the exercise of direct action based on voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. This revolt is one of necessity in the face of threats from oil and the Unified Command.

Once the coast is safe, or in pursuit of safeguarding the coast, why not go to the logical conclusion and dispense with authority altogether? There is nothing good that can’t be done by free individuals cooperating and competing as they choose. Authority will only disrupt and subjugate, attempting to control cooperation and competition on terms favorable to those in charge.

The environment does not belong to the government, to its corporate partnerships, or to the highest bidder. It belongs to those who live in it. Concerned individuals taking direct action can bypass the obstacles of power to improve the quality of life for themselves and for their neighbors.