After Wikileaks, There’s No Way to Go But Forward

What will the stateless society look like? A perfectly reasonable question, and one that anarchists must answer convincingly (or at least plausibly) if we want the rest of you to take our ideas seriously.

Fortunately, there are already a lot of answers floating around out there. Unfortunately, many of them don’t pass the plausibility test. They range from the fuzzy utopian stuff that makes such an easy target for anarchism’s critics (see, for example, Brian Palmer’s “What do anarchists want?” Slate, Dec. 29) to what I’ve referred to elsewhere as a “bourgeois libertarianism” that conflates the free market with actually existing capitalism and assumes an anarchy that looks a lot like Peoria minus tax collectors (like Gary North’s “In Praise of Shopping Malls,”, Jan. 1) .

I’m not sure you’ll find my answer to the question more attractive, but I do hope you’ll find it more plausible. What will the stateless society look like? The envelope, please:

Not like this.

If past revolutions have proven anything at all, it’s that the results almost never match the revolutionists’ visions. To put the worst possible face on this unpredictability, I assert that Abbé Sieyès in no way anticipated the Terror when he published What is the Third Estate? nor did Lenin anticipate the earliest excesses of the Cheka, let alone Stalinism and the Gulag, when he penned his “April Theses.”

The current revolution — and make no mistake, it has begun — differs from past ones in certain respects which should mitigate both the fear of future terrors and the actual probability of their occurrence.

The first major difference should be obvious: Past revolutions aimed to replace existing states with new ones, while the anarchist revolution aims to end the state altogether.

While the state is hardly the sole source of terror, it is the preeminent institutional source. Terror is an essential trait of statism. You might be able to have terror without the state, but you can’t have the state without terror (for those who wish to invoke the American Revolution as a counter-argument, no dice: “Loyalists” had their property seized and were exiled; the ink was barely dry on the Constitution when George Washington himself led an invading army through Pennsylvania, rounding up farmers for the “crimes” of resisting taxation and erecting “seditious [liberty] poles” of precisely the same variety that Americans had rallied around in the Revolution).

The second major difference is that the anarchist revolution “builds the new society in the shell of the old.” As opposed to filling a perceived vacuum with whatever comes to hand, the stateless society’s new institutions are coming into existence alongside the existing ones. You get to test drive the new car before sending the old one to the junk yard.

The closing days of 2010 saw the opening shots of the first world “cyber war,” and — consciously or not — the white hats in that war have acted as agents of transition toward a stateless society.

Wikileaks stripped the state of its ability to conduct its depredations in secret; “Anonymous” came out as the first large-scale voluntary, non-state defense/retaliation agency versus the state’s attempt to regain that power or to punish those who smashed it. Both of them brought to the fore a major question which none of us are any longer free to refrain from considering if we desire to live unmolested:

Given that technological advances have effectively destroyed the modern construct we call “privacy,” can we any longer afford to suffer the existence of an institution with a modus operandi (going at least as far back as William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086) of using the collection of personal information as an instrument of our enslavement?

There’s no way open to us but forward. “Once the moving hand hath writ,” and so on.

2010 saw the utter destruction of a mainstay of state power: Secrecy. It’s not coming back. And that means that in 2011, we shall necessarily see the state leaning ever more heavily on its remaining crutch: Terror.

If “not like this” isn’t enough for you yet, let’s talk again a year from now.

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