What are the arguments for anarchy

Chaos or order without rule?

They wear bushy beards on daguerreotypes, as if freedom began where one did not have to submit to any compulsion to shave. Anyone who sees Bakunin next to Karl Marx may visually confuse the two, but in terms of content they were worlds apart. The one vagabond anarchist and always there when it smelled of insurrection, revolt, upheaval; the other a merciless systematist, for whom the theoretical principle and its claim to truth was paramount. Both agreed only in rejecting the existing order of restorative monarchy in Europe and republican industrial capitalism in the USA. But that was where all the similarities ended.

"It is more of an embarrassing duty than righteousness to point out that since the days when communism first existed as a sketch of ideas, anarchists have predicted its failure and given the reasons for that failure. [...] Embarrassing because it was for them It would be shameful to fall under the suspicion of cheap schadenfreude. You would not like to join the chorus of those arrogant corpses who have no solutions to offer and therefore would do better to remain silent. Duty because the collapse of communism draws attention to our society that could just as unexpectedly collapse. "

Already from this short paragraph of Horst Stowasser's voluminous attempt to explain "Anarchy" a credo can be read: All existing social systems are inadequate, which is why their collapse would be as desirable as it would not be unexpected. The cause of bondage, injustice and the skewed distribution of wealth always lies in the concept of statehood itself, which means the rule of a few over many. The variety of authoritarian communism was no more an exception than that of representative democracy.

"In short, and to put it more simply: anarchy is not chaos, but order without domination."

An old dream of freedom that has lost none of its charisma, even if the situation of the underprivileged has improved dramatically in this country compared to the 19th century. From the guaranteed life security of a Hartz IV recipient hardly a line can be drawn back to the lumpen proletariat of bygone days without being guilty of implausible exaggerations. Stowasser, an old champion of the movement with a colorful résumé, is accordingly cautious. He knows that you are walking on thin ice with anarchist criticism of the status quo, as the enemy images would have to be massively exaggerated in order to be able to compete with the familiar ones of the past. The state is hardly seen as an opponent anymore, because hardly anyone adores it excessively:

"The ardent patriots are now almost extinct; modern citizens instead have a 'negative identification' with the state, and this love-hate relationship is tenacious and harder to shake than the hollow nationalism of bygone eras - a phenomenon that anarchists, incidentally, often underestimate."

What remains for the future, says Horst Stowasser, is the attempt to say goodbye to anarchy as an anti-attitude. Because it was precisely this negative fixation that led to bloody assassinations at the end of the 19th century that had little to do with the essence of anarchism itself. The author tries to counter this with a positive foundation. That is of course laborious. First, the Marxist utopia has shown how to use the system that is indispensable for any foundation to counteract the abyss. Second, the principle of "freedom of domination" is at odds with the dictates of any set of rules. What is an "anarchist order" - contradictio in adjecto? - has to offer, therefore inevitably remains diffuse:

"When we define 'anarchist' as 'free' and fill this fuzzy term with content such as decentralized, non-hierarchical, non-violent, solidarity, federal, self-administered and diverse, with techniques such as free agreement, the need principle, self-organization, consensus and freedom of association or with virtues Like mutual help, solidarity and the renunciation of violence, the practical application of such basic values ​​to concrete societies takes on realistic features that are not immediately obvious in the mere anarchist ideal utopia of 'freedom of rule'. "

The problems of anarchism shimmer through as a real way of life: it is the indissoluble contradictions that even well-meaning people encounter at every turn. The technique of "free agreement", which is widely praised in the book, appears highly repressive, because the fact that clear, for everyone understandable and therefore efficient rules of action and behavior should be replaced by an incessant discourse, makes every decisive person in anger or resignation float. The duty to debate, and indeed to reach the desired consensus, is a huge constraint.

"" Anyone who cannot confidently deal with the elements of 'delegation', 'trust' and the interaction of large and small groups will not enjoy basic democracy and consensus. Hundreds of alternative projects that believed that they had to discuss every nail in a wall and every word in a text with consensus, can tell a tragic-comic song about it: Either they learned something new and refined their methods, or they broke because of it. "

That is the refreshingly undogmatic tone of voice in Horst Stowasser's "Anarchy". Although the book clearly belongs to the genre of client literature, that is, it is aimed at an initiated readership who at least sympathizes with the issue, it does not spare criticism of like-minded people and smugly skewers the wildest swamp flowers of the movement; Discussing all kinds of projects is undoubtedly one of them. The author does not want to tell a victory story at the price of falsehood, even though he has researched all kinds of small and large attempts that began successfully over the last 150 years and all of them failed. It is easy to refer to the intervention of military powers in the cases of the Paris Commune, the Spanish Civil War, and other large anarchist corporations, including a largely unknown episode in Ukraine and even one in Korea.

But is that honestly argued? A form of society that has to hope for the tolerance of its bitterest opponents has absolutely no chance of realization. The immanent pacifism is the most sympathetic element in Stowasser's concept of anarchy. It is reflected in the sermon-like principle that the goal must always be present in the means practiced. A power-free society can never be bombed in this way by force. This distinguishes the anarchism of the mild mentality from the communist revolutionary doctrine, which can kill millions for a "just society" without seeing the concept of justice impaired in the least. But wait, Horst Stowasser also likes twisted dialectics, unfortunately.

"The 'presence of the goal in the means' is a wise principle of anarchism. Everyone knows that this principle, too, is a goal, a goal that must be constantly striven for but not always achieved. A maxim like the philosophers say."

In other words: the rule is, in a very uranarchist way, at best a non-binding recommendation, the violation of which does not negate any principles. We are already poorer by one illusion. The Sermon on the Mount did not work, the "presence of the goal in the means" also remains unredeemed in practice. The fact that it is nevertheless worth reading the fluently written, knowledge-filled and anecdote-rich book with small stylistic outliers is due to his fundamental refusal to submit to the narrow view of the scene. The author attests to her that she is at the crossroads between the social movement and the sect, although it has not been determined whether it will even be successful as a social movement. Unfortunately, the extensive book with its opulent picture section is not suitable as a monograph, as it clearly shows two blind spots. On the one hand, his economic considerations hardly do justice to the complex reality of the 21st century; they are backward-looking, short-circuited and lump out pronounced antipodes such as Milton Friedman and John Kenneth Galbraith into one pot. On the other hand, Stowasser completely negates a faction that is obviously uncomfortable for him, namely the radical anarcho-capitalists of the United States, who are quite like-minded in their rejection of statehood and their preference for autonomous units. Its main theorist Murray Rothbard is only mentioned in a single, criticizing subordinate clause on 500 pages.

But the anarcho-capitalists also refer to themselves as "libertarians", and whoever wants to give human coexistence a "different grammar" beyond statehood has to deal with its ideology. Ultimately, the representatives of left anarchism still believe in the socialist paradise of universal access by everyone to everything at all times and, unlike the anarcho-capitalists, loathe the concept of property from the bottom of their hearts. Is this how Marx and Bakunin suffice in heaven - or in hell? - the hand of reconciliation.


Horst Stowasser: Anarchy! Idea, history, perspectives
Edition Nautilus, Hamburg
448 pages, 24.90 euros