An Anarchist Apology, Part 2

Question 2: Who are some famous Anarchists you admire?

Short Answer: Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Jacques Ellul, G.K. Chesterton (kind of) and George Orwell (kind of).

Anarchists aren’t usually that famous, but these names are known outside of purely Anarchist circles. I should include the caveat that, because I haven’t been an Anarchist for that long, I don’t know a lot about various individuals that are important in Anarchy. Assuming I continue to be an Anarchist for a good long while, I’ll have time to catch up on these people’s lives as well as study other Anarchists that I don’t know much about now.

Dorothy Day is probably the most famous Anarchist of the 20th Century in Christian circles. Along with Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker movement, which runs multiple Houses of Hospitality to provide relief to the poor, as well as Farming Communes, where people can learn how to farm for themselves. I derive my personal definition of Anarchy from her statements in an interview (that I can’t find on YouTube anymore), and I love her statement that “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

Peter Maurin was, with Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. He’s not as famous, and I don’t know as much about him. Maybe he would have wanted it that way? Anyway, one of the coolest things that I know of that he did was write succinct, simple essays called “Easy Essays” that put forward Anarcho-Distributivist ideas in a way that is easy for anyone to understand.

Jacques Ellul was a French member of the Resistance during World War II. He was a professor afterwards, and involved in Anarchist social programs and lawsuits in France, as he was trained in the law. His most famous work is The Technological Society, which I own but have yet to read (because it is huge and difficult). I have read his much shorter Anarchy and Christianity, a book in which he attempts to show both Christians and Anarchists that Christians can be Anarchists. His idea that has most influenced me is the idea of ignoring the State until it atrophies away and becomes irrelevant.

These last two people can’t be pinned down as Anarchists, but are important to my Anarchist thinking.

G.K. Chesterton is more famous for writing Heretics, Orthodoxy and the Father Brown series of mystery stories, but he was also one of the originators of Distributism, the economic system that the Catholic Worker movement adopted and that I identify with. Chesterton was not an Anarchist, but he did believe in revolution. (And if you follow one link from this post, follow that one.) He argued that politicians on the left and right are really both against what is good, what should be the societal priority: Jones’, the everyman’s, family. He also wrote at least one essay about Anarchists.

Finally, Eric Blair (pen name George Orwell) described himself as a “democratic socialist,” but he fought as an ally of Anarchists during the Spanish Civil War. Orwell won me over as a fan when I read Animal Farm, and blew my mind with 1984. His experiences during the Spanish Civil War are recorded in Homage to Catalonia, in which he praises the Anarchists quite highly. His admiration of Anarchists and the hard lessons he learned about the treachery those who hold centralized power are capable of played a role in my attraction towards Anarchy and my rejection of centralized power as an acceptable method of government.

Next time I’ll address the question of how I can call myself a Christian and an Anarchist without contradiction.

    • Post169
    • April 4th, 2011

    I don’t think I agree with Dorothy Day, that our problems arise from acceptance of a bad system. They arise from sin.

    Do you mean, from what you said about how Jacques Ellul has most influenced you, that you do not vote, but let the government and the people who have been miseducated by the government have complete control? A lot can be done to improve the status of the US by voting.

    I read the revolution link, and while I agree that Chesterton has most of the priorities right there, and is finding the right system the right way, I find two things that stand out. He mentions the redistribution of property; that is touchy. Unless the property was stolen in the first place, it should not be redistributed. If it was stolen, the redistribution should take careful account of who the rightful owners are, rather than giving it to those who are most in need according to some formula. Also, while a revolution can be a very good thing, starting things fresh out so that there is a possibility of creating a perfect system, there must be good reason before one is started.

    Two cases I know of where a revolution was started for a good reason are the Maccabees, who threw off the reign of the Seleucid dynasty in Israel when the Seleucids tried to force Greek culture on the Israelites and erase their history, and the American revolution, which was provoked by the British government breaking its own laws in a quest for power.

    The US government has broken the Constitution and taken more power than justifiable, but I desire to try and fix that by means congruent to the Constitution before thinking about a revolution. And it does look like things are going uphill in DC now – the new Speaker of the House started his time as speaker by having the Constitution read aloud in the House, and some Democrats criticized that, saying the Constitution is outdated. So we know that the better party is rising.

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