Article by Mark I Rasskazov, Editor in Chief.
In the 1990s Russia experienced anarchy. The Ruble experienced hyper-inflation, followed by the collapse of the Soviet super-state. The country continued to have laws, yet they became completely unenforceable by virtue of their overabundance and massive corruption. It became impossible to follow the rules and run a business or live a normal life, so the rules were simply universally ignored. This was a time of legal ambiguity. It was not long after the collapse of the Soviet state, that the «New Russians,» i.e. the Russian organized crime syndicates, took control of the streets and most businesses, large and small. The people began to adapt to the power vacuum left behind by the Soviet government by engaging in direct barter and individual enterprises that simply ignored the absurd and unenforced laws of the land; yet not a year had gone by before gangs took control. President Yeltsin tried, without success, to restore order while maintaining a free-market economy. After three terms, he had managed to substantially slow the deterioration of the currency, and had established some order, yet the economy was still firmly in the hands of the Russian mob, and the government was powerless to stop them. The man who finally was able to restore law and order was Vladimir Putin — a tyrant; yet, a moderate tyrant, by Russian standards. You can now start a business in Russia — and I know some people who have. You can run a business without fear of being shaken down by organized crime, and it is safe to walk the streets. People have money, and people have some freedom of movement. People are able to speak their minds — for the most part. Yet, when it comes to big business, the largest companies are firmly under the control of the state, and media companies that criticize Putin frequently find themselves shut down or bought out.
This has been my personal experience with anarchy.
What is anarchy?
Anarchy is the absence of government.
What is government?
Government is the organized application of force.
Now, there are a number of ideas that go under the name, «anarchy,» such as anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism, but the only genuine form of anarchism is anarcho-capitalism, a la Murray Rothbard, et. al. The reason for this is that anarcho-capitalism is the only anarchic ideology that genuinely advocates for the abolition of any kind of continuous organized force. All other anarchic ideologies simply apply the organization of force either to the workers, or to the local governments, or some group other than what is currently perceived of as being government; which does not abolish government, but simply alters which hands are at the helm of government.
Now, anarchy, throughout history, and as I’ve seen personally, tends to be de facto anarchy, and not genuine anarchy, because it typically develops when there are rules which are in place, but they are generally not followed. They are not followed, because that institution which used to be the government is no longer able to enforce them. A law is a general, categorical directive backed by force, with the threat of punitive action. If it can no longer be backed by force, then it ceases to be law in any practical sense. The government need not succeed in applying punitive action in all cases for it to be law, but it must succeed in doing so a certain percentage of the time; to the extent that it creates a measure of pause among at least some of the population when they consider the idea of violating the categorical directive in question. If a small group forcibly applies directives to its members — then it is a government, however small. Pushing the issue down to communities or workforces, therefore, does not abolish government; it merely changes the organizational structure of it. Anarcho-capitalism is the only form of government which excludes any kind of sustained organized force designed to apply categorical directives, and is thus unique in that it describes a genuine anarchical system.
A state of true anarchy is difficult to sustain, because what usually happens is that violent men realize that they may organize together to apply force to other individuals to get whatever it is they want (commodities, power, women, land, etc.). If they succeed in doing this, then they establish a tyranny. If, on the other hand, the people, in turn, organize to resist them and protect their persons and their homes, and then establish an order which keeps the individuals and their properties secure from the initiation of force, then what emerges is a republic. It is very difficult to maintain a state of anarchy without going in one of these two directions.
Russia was an anarchy that swiftly devolved into an organized criminal tyranny. Yeltsin attempted to establish a Republic, but, ultimately, was unable to stop the tyrannical rule of the gangs on the street. Finally, Putin was able to wrest control from the criminals, yet his own system is far from being a pure republic. It is a limited tyranny, which allows for some republican activities, so long as they do not pose any kind of threat to the status quo. Now, I think that the takeaway is that people can only be free to the extent that they are capable of taking responsibility for themselves, and are willing and able to take it upon themselves to destroy a man, or group of men, who pose a threat to their persons, properties, and families; which means that they have to independently establish strong bonds with their fellow men, and be able to organize themselves very quickly. Russia was unable to achieve true freedom, because they spent 70 years under Communism, and many hundreds of years under monarchy before that, and so their society never had to learn how to start a business and be self-sufficient. This is something they’ve had to learn on the fly — and they’ve come a long way very quickly, but the reason their anarchic state has settled on a tyrannical system (albeit, a tyranny limited in scope), is because they have been behind the power curve on the concepts of individual responsibility and entrepreneurship.
Is anarchy possible to sustain? Yes. The Israelites in the Old Testament were able to sustain anarchy for hundreds of years under the prophets, but they did frequently have to organize themselves to stop an invasion, and they enjoyed a culture which promoted individual responsibility and social cohesion. Anarchy is possible, but only for a society which consists of powerful and tightly knit people. Perhaps one day we will be up to it, but at present, in my opinion, we are not. Our culture is increasingly one of irresponsibility, alienation, and cowardice. If we can return to a republican state; one in which our livelihood and safety must come from our friends, our families, and ourselves, and not the state, then perhaps our childrens’ children will be fit for this, but at present we are not.