Carne Ross: Politics as we know it should die and loving anarchy should prosper


We’ve profiled the Accidental Anarchist Carne Ross before in these pages - and it’s part of our rising interest in the traditions of anarchism, particular the social anarchism of Murray Bookchin (in the US) and Colin Ward (in the UK). Can an updated anarchism be an alternative political philosophy to the parties of left of right - one that profoundly respects the desire of localities to express real power over their conditions?

We were delighted to see Carne pen this extremely lucid piece on his vision of anarchism for the free-sheet newspaper Metro. A complex anarchism in the hands of the morning commuters! Things must be shifting…

Please read the whole piece, but we wanted to point out a few sharp sections. Here’s Carne’s scepticism that social technology is a good way to make decisions, if it’s not in service to regular real-life meetings:

Technology can help share information (though we need better ways to verify it) but the Internet, clearly, is not a good place to take complicated decisions. Study evidence shows that people are much more likely to agree when they meet in person – and often.

It makes sense: You may detest that shouty man who attacks teachers on Twitter if you only know him online.

In person, you may feel differently when his eyes fill up over the treatment of his special needs child in the under-funded local school or when the teacher gets to explain her reality. Real-life democracy requires give-and-take, that my concession today may invite yours tomorrow.

We respect and listen to each other more when we see each other as messy, lovable humans rather than reductive political labels.

This is the beating heart of anarchist self-government: the struggle to understand, make decisions and live with one another. But this is the beating heart of a civilised, fair and tolerant – indeed loving – society too.

But how does this happen in a system which feels deeply entrenched, complacent in its self-regard as the mother of democracy’?

Carne goes on to cite the hopeful fact that Extinction Rebellion are in discussions with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to see if a citizens assembly on the climate crisis can be started in the capital.

But as Carne continues:

It’s shouldn’t be left to the whim of one man to grant ‘the people’ democracy. The necessary change is much wider.

It’s about a whole culture of how we live together and, perhaps, start to love one another. We need to make it happen ourselves.

It’s totally possible to start meetings in the workplace or local neighbourhood. If they include everyone, they will start to gain legitimacy.

It means learning new techniques to listen and give priority to those normally ignored. No one should pretend this would be easy but the decisions of these gatherings could start to feel like the only decisions that matter.

Top-down impositions, by bosses or politicians, will offer a poor contrast. A system can shift, without violence and by consent.

It’s long been presumed (not least by Marx) that the English would never revolt.

I’m no longer sure that holds. When pensioners, school-children and professors block London streets, something is afoot.

There is a sense of possibility, of flux and opportunity, a sense that new ideas can be imagined and brought to life very quickly.

Building a new democracy and society requires us not only to demand it but to do it ourselves.

More here.

BTW, this is part of the Metro’s surprising and eclectic series, The Future of Everything, whose aim is “a look into the near future without resorting to doomsday predictions or fantasy. What really is the future of work, evolution, people, governments, travel, the web and health?” An approach we concur with…