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Anarchism Direct Democracy in the Global Occupy Movements


I’d like to hear from any anarchists about their influences and beliefs….

The philosophy of anarchism developed during the French Revolution two hundred years ago, with many different branches. The Greek root an-arkhos means without a leader. Activist writer David Graeber explained that the easiest way to explain anarchism it to say, “It is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society” without the threat of violence by police, prisons, and armies.[i] Anarchists played an influential role in Spain, especially before Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939 when farms and factors were collectivized, and then were active in the trade union movement. When Franco took power, he assassinated thousands of anarchists. In the US, revolutionary anarchism surfaced between 1875 and 1914 as with radicals like Emma Goldman, until Bolshevik success in the Russian Revolution silenced anarchism in Russia and communism became the dominant revolutionary ideology in the US.


Anarchism resurfaced in the global justice movement after 1989 and the fall of the USSR. The anti-globalization movement adopted direct democracy methods of decision-making and direct action in defiance of unjust laws such as Gandhi breaking British law to make salt. Consensus decision-making had its roots in Quaker meetings and Second Wave feminism. The Internet hacker group Anonymous does anarchist direct actions as described on their Facebook page.[ii] The editors of Occupy Everything explain “We write anonymously because we are conspiring to take apart everything in this world.” Graeber pointed out the anarchist principles of direct democracy, direct action and creating alternative institutions influenced the US civil rights movement, the anti-nuclear-movement and the global justice movement. The difference is none of these movements grew as quickly as the 2011 Occupy encampments.


Anarchistic goals influenced global uprisings in their anti-state government stance, a reluctance to make demands for changes that would imply recognition of the legitimacy of governments controlled by the 1%. A statement by the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street explained, “Occupy Wall Street is a people’s movement. It is party-less, leaderless, by the people and for the people.” [iii] With similar goals to Marxist belief that the state must wither away as a tool of capitalist control, the difference is Marxists believe they need to take over the state and then transform society. Anarchists don’t want to be associated with national governments and believe they should practice the democratic new society now as in communes, co-ops, free school and worker-controlled factories “in the shell of the old.” Hence, all the Occupy movements quickly self-organize free services including kitchens, libraries, clinics, and childcare.


[i] Aragorn! editor. Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupy Movement 2009-2011, LCB Books, 2012.

[iii] Occupy Everything, p. iv.


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