They Seem Invincible, says Orwell, But Don't Give Up

Date:

'Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible' – democratic socialist George Orwell.

You wake up, and the radio is saying something about hundreds of billions of euro again. Police somewhere just shot a load of protesters, and something about the polar ice caps melting faster than we thought. It's awful, but you're just one person. Things are pretty bleak.

You're not the first to feel hopeless
As Orwell says, the rulers of society, the people in charge who control the resources and make the decisions, will seem invincible. Put yourself in the position of a feudal serf, or a slave? Do you think they ever thought that the feudal regime would crumble, that slavery would be abolished? People said it wasn't possible, that human nature wouldn't allow it, and that we should just aim to have a 'better feudalism', a 'better slavery'. But, lo and behold, it happened and only because there were people who refused to settle, who dared to believe that a fundamentally better world was possible.

For thousands of years, the resistance has never stopped
Rebellion is ingrained into the human being. The powerful have never been able to extinguish our sense of right and wrong, and our passion to change the world. Of course they have had partial success, but if anything in general can be said about humans it is that we will never stop fighting back against the forces of domination. The story of history is the story of resistance to oppression, and millions of people have been literally willing to die and be tortured for the freedom of others. Never forget that.

We must change the world, we have no choice
Endless war, poverty, racism, and religious indoctrination, homophobia, homelessness, addiction, and suicide, media lies, daily drudgery, the subjugation of women, and ecological catastrophe – it feels like the Earth is one big emergency room. It is not a question of 'do we need a new system?', but 'how do get rid of this system?' and 'what do we replace it with?'. Piecemeal reform won't cut it, and history shows that. But we shouldn't fight because we know that we can win, we should fight because we have to win, because it's the right thing to do. And there's no time to lose.

It doesn't have to be this way. There is an alternative
That alternative is not fascism, it is not social democracy, it is not totalitarian 'Communism'. The alternative is anarchism. 'Freedom without Socialism is prejudice and injustice, Socialism without Freedom is slavery and brutality', said Mikhail Bakunin. Anarchism is the social movement and philosophy which strives for a society based on free co-operation for the good of all. It is the general opposition to oppression and exploitation, which seeks to replace relationships of power – e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia - with relationships of solidarity, and institutions of power – e.g. capitalism, the state - with direct democratic structures.

Anarchism is no pipe-dream. It is the practical conclusion of the dictum 'power corrupts', the sensible realisation that society must be run from the bottom up rather than by politicians, bosses, clergy, and judges. Not only that but it has been put into practice before on a large scale, in Spain, in Ukraine, and to some extent Chiapas in Mexico today. When Thatcher said 'there is no alternative!' she really meant 'believe there is no alternative!'.

Collective action is our weapon
There are more of 'us' than there are of 'them', simple as. The 1% aren't called the 1% for no reason. But unless we organise ourselves, these numbers mean nothing. The powers that be take organisation very seriously, and so should we. The present campaign against the water charges is good illustration of what this involves. People have formed local campaign groups all over the country, with regular meetings, leaflets and posters, stalls, bulletins through social media, and acts of civil disobedience. Other examples of grassroots organisation are trade unions, anti-racism groups, soup kitchens, popular education groups, community gardens, general political organisations like ourselves, and solidarity networks like DubSol.

But not all activity was born equal, and we favour direct action, i.e. actions to get results without going through middlemen. This could be a strike, resisting a home foreclosure, or boycotting your water bill, as opposed to voting in the general election. Apart from being effective, it empowers us by making us realise that 'ordinary people' can make the difference, hence fostering the DIY attitude mentioned below.

It begins with the individual
Collective action is driven by each person's initiative. It begins with individual people taking a 'Do It Yourself' attitude, not waiting around for someone else to figure it out. That means transforming 'what can one person do?' into 'I will do what one person can do!', realising that 'activists' aren't divinely appointed to make social change, and that 'many hands make light work'. Central to the anarchist ethos is personal responsibility: this is our world, and we each are responsible for it. You don't have to be Jim Larkin to make a difference, you can start where you are now - your family, friends, workplace, neighbourhood, church, club, and so on. But make sure you inform yourself well, in order to effectively fight the battle of ideas.

So we will leave you with two quotes, one from Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, and one from US anarchist August Spies (who was framed and executed in the Haymarket Affair):

"[T]he subject is not whether we accomplish Anarchism today, tomorrow, or within ten centuries, but that we walk towards Anarchism today, tomorrow, and always." - Errico Malatesta

"But, if you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement - the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery - the wage slaves - expect salvation - if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out." - August Spies

Like what you're reading?
Find out when we publish more via the
WSM Facebook
& WSM Twitter