The dictionary defines “anarchy” as “chaos,” and anarchists have been accused of advocating social, political, and economic chaos. They don’t though — quite the opposite. What the word “anarchy,” from the Greek, really means is “without a head,” without a designated leader. Anarchists avoid leaders and so-called representative government because they believe that free people are naturally responsible and capable of representing themselves and organizing democratically from the bottom up. One of the ways of doing this is via spokes councils, by means of which groups can send one or more members to higher-level councils to report on their decisions and bring back questions for further discussion. This is true democracy, allowing each person a way to voice his or her concerns and control the decisions affecting his or her life. Because hungry, homeless, insecure people aren’t really free, anarchism also works to ensure equal access to health care, education, and the necessities of life, as well as protection, on the local and global levels, from violence.

People in power have obscured these simple and powerful ideas, because they’d lose their power and privilege in an anarchist society. They accuse anarchists not only of promoting chaos, but of being violent. The historical fact is that some anarchists in the 19th century were violent, believing that social change could be accomplished by assassinating those in economic and/or political power. (Remember: anarchists believe in an individual’s freedom to make his or her own decisions. Therefore, there are no anarchist “party lines” or official agendas.) Nowadays, anarchists are much more likely to be non-violent, even pacifists.

If you believe in freedom, responsibility, democracy, equality, and mutual solidarity, you’ll enjoy learning more about anarchism. The notes and books notes under this heading will help you do that, as will, of course, googling all of these terms online.

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