“Anarchy” is derived from the Greek an arkhos, which translates literally to “without rulers.” It follows, then, that we have our universal definition of anarchy: a state in which there are no rulers, and our definition of anarchist: someone who advocates that there should not be rulers.
Then we have something that is completely unrelated–the point of divergence between anarcho-communists and anarcho-capitalists. It is a statement of fact that this thing is not related to anarchy, and this “thing” is hierarchy, which derives from hierarkhes, which means “sacred ruler.” Anarchy, then, means “without a sacred ruler,” because “sacred” is a type of ruler, and anarchy means “without rulers” of any and all types–sacred or mundane. In this classical, etymological sense, yes–anarchy does mean “without hierarchy.”
But what does hierarchy actually mean today? Briefly, we turn to Google for the definition:
a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.
Not a mention of rulers or anything sacred.
It’s a matter of record that the meaning of “hierarchy” has changed considerably over time–clearly, and no one can dispute this assertion. This is a word game that the Anarcho-Communists pull, as follows:
- “Anarchy” means without rulers.
- “Anarchy” means without hierarchy [sacred rulers].
- “Anarchy” means without hierarchy [a system in which people or groups are ranked…]
We can tell with no more than a glance that “sacred rulers” and “a system in which people or groups are ranked” are not even kinda the same thing. For example, in a lot of ways the colleague I’ve mentioned several times is my boss, and I am subordinate to him; in our two-tier hierarchy, he is above me. He is not, however, sacred nor a ruler. He is not my ruler because I am free to disobey and disassociate from him at any time I would like, and that is not the case with rulers, least of all sacred ones.
It’s a word game that the AnComs are playing, by saying that anarchy means not having “this word,” knowing that “this word” has a new, modern meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with its ancient meaning–and they know they are correct when they reference its ancient meaning. The Anarcho-Capitalist would gladly agree–anarchy most certainly does mean “without sacred rulers.”
Does anarchy mean “without a system in which people or groups are ranked”?
To the Anarcho-Communist, the answer is “Yes.”
To the Anarcho-Capitalist, the answer is “No.”
No True Scotsman
This post is motivated by the claim I hear ad nauseum that AnCaps aren’t true anarchists. This is nonsense. We established the definitions clearly above. Their etymological origins are in full accord with their modern meanings–notwithstanding statist propaganda that has attempted to redefine “anarchy” to mean “lack of a central authority or civil war.” Anarchy means today exactly what it did when the Greeks combined an with arkhos: without rulers. So anyone who advocates the ideology that there should not be rulers is an anarchist.
It’s a two-sided game, and I am more than willing to stop playing it if the AnComs will stop playing it. If you guys stop saying that we aren’t true anarchists, we’ll stop saying that you aren’t true anarchists. This is most definitely an argument that we can make.
For example, the anarcho-communist would not allow me to voluntarily subordinate myself to my colleague. In so doing, the anarcho-communist has granted themselves authority over me, and I must obey them. They are, in every sense, attempting to be my ruler–attempting to decree what I can and cannot do, rather than what I should and should not do. There is nothing anarchistic about this, as they are making themselves rulers. Far from eliminating rulers, anarcho-communism attempts to turn an idea into the ruler–the idea of equality across the board, whether people like it or not, and the anarcho-communists become the footsoldiers of the state to enforce that ruler’s decrees.
See, I don’t have to rely upon word games to say that AnComs aren’t real communists. They do. They have to perform a literary sleight of hand, by saying that anarchy means “without hierarchy” while using the classical, original definition, and pretending that this applies to the modern, unrelated definition. If you argue for them to explain what is meant by hierarchy, you will ultimately beat them back until they confess that what they want is not a society without rulers but a society where everyone is a ruler as long as they bow to this idea and attempt to enforce it.
Person A to Person B: “I hereby voluntarily agree to work for you and to do as you say.”
AnCom: “No, you can’t do that. You have to be equals.”
Person A: “Says who?”
AnCom: “Says me. Everyone has to be equal.”
Person A: “But you have the authority to tell me what I can and can’t do?”
Person A: “Then everyone isn’t equal, are they? You are my ruler.”
AnCom: “It’s for the greater good. Everyone must be equal.”
Person A: “Except they aren’t. You’re at least my ruler.”
AnCom: “It’s for the greater good of equality. You can’t be allowed to subordinate yourself to someone.”
Person A: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”
Ah, what the hell.
In the anarcho-communist society, entering into a voluntarily subordinate agreement becomes an act of revolution.
It’s a blackhole of contradiction and oxymorons that, in order to ensure that there are no rulers, everyone must become a ruler and rule over everyone who doesn’t agree ideologically–which we see play out precisely in the above conversation. It’s impossible to force people to be equal without setting yourself up as a ruler over them, and why is that? Because the use of force, violence, and coercion are what mark a state, and the state is the ruling caste. Anarcho-Communism does not abolish the state. It widens it.
Leaders & Rulers
The problem is the inability to see that there is a difference between choosing to be subordinate to someone, and being forced to be subordinate to someone. In the above conversation–which, I daresay, few AnComs could actually dispute as being a realistic interpretation of the ideology–in order to stop someone from choosing to be subordinate to someone, they are forced to be subordinate to someone–under the auspices that it is unacceptable to be subordinate to someone. We can see the doublethink and cognitive dissonance in action, can’t we? We know the AnCom is shaking his or her head and mumbling, “No, no… That’s different. That’s not the same.”
And they’re right–but not for the right reasons. They’re right that it is not the same to choose to be subordinate to someone and to be forced to be subordinate. It is the critical difference between a ruler and a leader. A leader is someone to whom we choose to defer–either because of their expertise, knowledge, strength, wisdom, intelligence, or whatever. A ruler is someone to whom we must defer–because of their use of force, violence, and coercion.
It is the difference between following and obeying.
It is the difference between choice and force.
It is the difference between advice and mandate.
It is the difference between suggestion and requirement.
The AnCom, by extension, sees no difference between the above dichotomies, yet there is a world of difference. For example, I have suggested repeatedly that people who read my stuff should use Firefox, Ghostery, NoScript, and Adblock Plus. I have never mandated that these things are required. Of course I haven’t! I have no authority or power to make any mandates or demands. This is the difference; this is where the distinction lies. That some people choose to follow what I write, and on some occasions to even acquiesce to my ideas and adopt them, gives me no authority over them or power over them whatsoever. They can disavow me and disassociate from me at any time. I am not their ruler*.
If I attempt to enter into a voluntary agreement with someone else, and you tell me that I can’t, then how do I not have a ruler? In fact, I’m quite far from being an arkhos, aren’t I? I have a ruler: you. The ruler is the one who mandates that I cannot enter into this voluntarily agreement; the ruler is the one who requires that I not enter into this voluntary agreement.
* To be fair, I would also say that I am not their leader, either. Except, perhaps, in the case of a few examples–two in particular, those same two to whom I posted videos a while back. But let’s not get into that.