I had an epiphany while reading reports of protests in Europe against the various austerity measures being imposed due to the different government’s economic woes: The radical ideology for our postmodern times is anarchism, the rejection of all authority.
Let me explain, but first read what is happening in Europe:
Already struggling to avoid a debt default that could seal Greece’s fate as a financial pariah, this Mediterranean nation is also scrambling to contain another threat — a breakdown in the rule of law.
Thousands have joined an “I Won’t Pay” movement, refusing to cover highway tolls, bus fares, even fees at public hospitals. To block a landfill project, an entire town south of Athens has risen up against the government, burning earth-moving equipment and destroying part of a main access road.
The protests are an emblem of social discontent spreading across Europe in response to a new age of austerity. At a time when the United States is just beginning to consider deep spending cuts, countries such as Greece are coping with a fallout that has extended well beyond ordinary civil disobedience.
Perhaps most alarming, analysts here say, has been the resurgence of an anarchist movement, one with a long history in Europe. While militants have been disrupting life in Greece for years, authorities say that anger against the government has now given rise to dozens of new “amateur anarchist” groups, whose tactics include planting of gas canisters in mailboxes and destroying bank ATMs.
Some attacks have gone further, heightening concerns about a return to the kind of left-wing violence that plagued parts of Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. After urban guerrillas mailed explosive parcels to European leaders and detonated a powerful bomb last year in front of an Athens courthouse, authorities here have staged a series of raids, arresting dozens and yielding caches of machine guns, grenades and bomb-making materials.
The anarchist movement in Europe has a long, storied past, embracing an anti-establishment universe influenced by a broad range of thinkers from French politician and philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Karl Marx to Oscar Wilde. Defined narrowly, the movement includes groups of urban guerillas, radical youths and militant unionists. More broadly, it encompasses everything from punk rock to WikiLeaks. . . .
A radical minority is energizing the anarchist movement, a loose network of anti-establishment groups that sprung up in force in the 1970s in opposition to Greece’s former military junta. Over the next two decades, anarchists would assassinate Richard Welch, a CIA station chief in Athens, as well as Greek politicians and a British military attache.
Greek authorities seemed to cut the head off the movement after the leaders of November 17th, the largest group, were arrested in the early 2000s before Greece hosted the 2004 Olympics. But it has been gaining new life. The December 2008 killing of a 15-year anarchist by a police officer in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens sparked days of riots and became the impetus for a series of fresh attacks.
Since then, experts say, the economic crisis has helped the movement thrive, with anarchists positioning themselves as society’s new avengers. Long a den of anarchists, the graffiti-blanketed Exarchia neighborhood is alive anew with dissent. Nihilist youths are patrolling the local park, preventing police from entering and blocking authorities from building a parking lot on the site. On one evening at a local cafe, an anarchist group was broadcasting anti-government messages via a clandestine radio station using a laptop and a few young recruits.
In the most recent attacks, only one person has been injured, a courier who handled a letter bomb, but over the past two years, anarchist attacks have claimed four lives in Greece, including a journalist and a minister’s top aide. Left-wing radicals also appear responsible for the deaths of three civilians — including a pregnant woman — after a bank was firebombed during an anti-government protest last year.
Still, there is a line to be drawn between the far larger group of young anarchists hurling Molotov cocktails at street demonstrations and the smaller, more dangerous cells of urban guerrillas. But experts are increasingly concerned about growing militancy on the streets and the emergence of dozens of new anarchist groups on the Internet.
We have anarchist protesters here in the USA too. They are the ones who wear masks and break windows during the protests at the various global economics conclaves.
Now of course in Europe it is beyond absurd to protest cut-backs in government services by advocating the elimination of government altogether! But anarchists reject the authority of reason also. I think their strategy is exploit people’s anger at their governments to turn them against government in general. But I’m thinking that the fundamental ideology needs to be taken seriously because, to one degree or another, it has become pervasive.
There are many paths to anarchy, coming from both the left and the right. Read the extensive Wikipedia article on anarchism:
There are many types and traditions of anarchism, not all of which are mutually exclusive.Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications. Anarchism is often considered to be a radical left-wing ideology, and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflect anti-statist interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism or participatory economics. However, anarchism has always included an individualist strain supporting a market economy and private property, or morally unrestrained egoism. Some individualist anarchists are also socialists while some anarcho-communists are also individualists. The position known as anarchism without adjectives insists on “recognising the right of other tendencies to the name ‘anarchist’ while, obviously, having their own preferences for specific types of anarchist theory and their own arguments why other types are flawed.”
The central tendency of anarchism as a mass social movement has been represented by anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism, with individualist anarchism being primarily a literary phenomenon which nevertheless did have an impact on the bigger currents and individualists also participated in large anarchist organizations. Some anarchists oppose all forms of aggression, supporting self-defense or non-violence (anarcho-pacifism), while others have supported the use of some coercive measures, including violent revolution and propaganda of the deed, on the path to an anarchist society.
The links show how many aspects of anarchism there are. But briefly, left-wing anarchism opposes all established power systems, as well as private property. Right-wing anarchism is an extreme libertarianism that believes the “invisible hand” of free market economics can also regulate all human interactions, making central governments unnecessary.
Anarchism accords well with postmodernism, which rejects objective truth and objective morality, and which considers all cultural institutions to be ultimately grounded in social oppression and the imposition of power. Anarchism also accords well with contemporary culture, which tends to reject all moral authority, including that of the family and religious institutions.
And isn’t contemporary conservatism with its libertarianism, the Tea Party, and the overall antipathy to government part of this climate? That there may be good reasons for a certain reaction does not always justify everything that reaction turns into. The horrible working conditions of the 19th century industrial revolution made Communism seem like a good idea at the time, even though that ideology turned into an even more horrible monster. Bad government can make us want to limit it without going so far as anarchism. Still, it seems to me that conservatives need to work out clearly what they think government should do and not do, as opposed to surrendering to the anarchist impulse.