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Is a completely stateless society possible?:

Pro-Freedom Fanatic
I've been thinking about the practicality of no government whatsoever lately... And my conclusions aren't particularly optimistic.

Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that one way or another a reasonably peaceful and prosperous anarchist territory has been established somewhere: There's a buncha unions, cooperatives and communes more or less running the economy, there's a popular militia more or less keeping basic order, and trade is coordinated among a buncha shipping cooperatives and unions of freelance couriers.

They've refrained from hyper-revolutionary saber-rattling and there isn't a civil war that might spill over, so their relations with neighboring countries aren't particularly hostile. To put it simply, it works.

Still, given how international relations work, statelessness would put even a functional anarchist community in a difficult position internationally:

  • Travel: The anarchist polity's inhabitants aren't technically citizens of any country. They have no passports, therefore they can't travel overseas.
  • Natural Resources: Their sovereignty couldn't be recognized internationally, so they wouldn't have an Exclusive Economic Zone. Their waters would be considered international waters: The Naval Militia would have to work full-time swatting foreign fishing boats off their turf... And they'd be regarded as pirates by the international community.
  • Trade: They couldn't enter into trade agreements, since there's nobody to sign'em. It's quite likely that their goods would be tariffed outta the roof upon export, since no better status can be negotiated.
  • Diplomacy: They couldn't have it either, since nobody has the ability to present ambassadors, and no negotiator is in a position to promise (and deliver) worth a damn (not actually representing anybody)
  • International Law: They wouldn't get an UN seat and they wouldn't exist under international law: This would make it difficult to lobby for their interests.

These constraints are unlikely to go away unless anarchism spreads throughout the world (unlikely). They'd remain there even in the absence of international ill will.

Taking that into consideration, I've been wondering whether an otherwise anarchic society wouldn't be better off by establishing a purely de jure government (essentially a legal fiction) to obtain international recognition and being able to access such goodies as passports, a maritime EEZ, free trade agreements and basic diplomacy... It'd probably be the most practical option. That brings us to a few questions:

  • Could an anarchic society manage to survive without any of those things? Would it be worth the effort?
  • Can a powerless legal fiction of a government be established without it growing into an actual government?
  • Assuming society is otherwise libertarian and socialistic (and the government is powerless in practice), would it still be an anarchic society?

edited 30th Dec '11 5:43:58 AM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 2 Major Tom, Fri, 30th Dec '11 5:36:55 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
No to all of those.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 3 Mrs Ratched, Fri, 30th Dec '11 5:39:09 AM from Spain Relationship Status: It's not my fault I'm not popular!
The Iron Throne is mine! By rights!
I don't think so, 'cuz the only reason the human being has reached for civilization is adopting a functioning hierarchy of items and people, so leadership is mandatory, so a state, or government, or city council is as well

But, everything have a dark side
Hey you! Don't tell me there's no hope at all! Together we stand, divided we fall
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
[up][up] Please elaborate. tongue
You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 5 Mrs Ratched, Fri, 30th Dec '11 5:45:21 AM from Spain Relationship Status: It's not my fault I'm not popular!
The Iron Throne is mine! By rights!
Well, as i'm more of in the line of Rousseau, Hobbes expressed well the need of government
Hey you! Don't tell me there's no hope at all! Together we stand, divided we fall
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
The main difficulty of an anarchist society would be international relations: They'd invariably need a legal kludge to have'em, and I can currently think of three ways:

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 7 Caissas Death Angel, Fri, 30th Dec '11 6:18:17 AM from Dumfries, SW Scotland Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
House Lewis: Sanity is Relative
Human nature being what it is, I find it highly unlikely that a pseudo-government wouldn't result in the forcible seizing of actual power by someone within it sooner or later. Opportunism isn't a human trait you can simply ignore or remove, it would require a ridiculous amout of effort to ensure no one in the government had a lot of it, and one that would always ultimately fail.

The international relations issue is a huge problem as well, and would ensure that any natural resources possessed by the anarchists would quickly find themselves taken by recognised international communities. Regulations preventing that would require a state of being for the community that precludes it being considered a true anarchist society.

Granted, scholars of anarchism have no doubt considered such questions for decades, so there probably are academic answers (or at least vague workarounds) to these issues that I'm unfamiliar with.
My name is Addy. Please call me that instead of my username.
 8 Mrs Ratched, Fri, 30th Dec '11 6:31:43 AM from Spain Relationship Status: It's not my fault I'm not popular!
The Iron Throne is mine! By rights!
An example of why anarchy would just don't work it's because the lack of authority chains...And the way humankind is a social animal that needs that kind o hierarchy...I'm not saying that authoritarian systems fit well on human nature, but definitely, anarchy just don't fit human nature...

An example would be the Spanish Civil War, where anarchist had some influence on the events and *sadly* contributed to the fall of the Republic...In most cases, Anarchist forces rejected having any leader, and takin' decisions resulted in a council to form a council to form a council to decide who's having the authority to take decissions, resulting in them being slaughtered by the besieging forces of the enemy...And so on...

To an extent, Anarchism isn't a system that is evolved for the course of human history but a theoretical system that would be somehow imposed, so it could -if not just don't- don't fit human nature, as it's not developed from human natural behavior
Hey you! Don't tell me there's no hope at all! Together we stand, divided we fall
Is that cake frosting?
Your posts assumes that your hypothetical anarchist territory is internally stable and reasonably prosperous. If this is the case* , then the issues that you mention could be solved easily enough.

  • Travel: Unions, cooperatives and so on could make individual agreements with other states, and issue travel certificates or something like that to their members. They could even gather together and make multi-cooperative agreements, if they wanted to.
  • Natural Resources: That's not different from what any novel state would have to face. Yeah, getting other states to recognize the anarchistic commune's sovereignty claims would be difficult, sure, but the fact that it is "stateless" is not the issue here.
  • Trade: Same as for travel. Unions can deal with states on their own, or, if they prefer, they can associate and try to obtain a better agreement.
  • Diplomacy: Same as above. Individual groups could certainly send representatives abroad. Or they could nominate the same representative, in order to give her/him more contractual power.
But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

 10 Major Tom, Fri, 30th Dec '11 6:38:14 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Granted, scholars of anarchism have no doubt considered such questions for decades, so there probably are academic answers (or at least vague workarounds) to these issues that I'm unfamiliar with.

The answer/workaround usually devolves into "the anarchist society is the only one left."

Anarchist/stateless societies have an all too common pattern of being effortlessly conquered or destroyed by powers with an established state historically.

That's the thing about anarchism that doesn't think beyond human nature. There's no monopoly on force, legal or otherwise that a government can do. If Savage established his utopian anarchist paradise at say a village scale I could go there visiting and within 24 hours that anarchist paradise is consigned to the dusts of history, destroyed by the will of one man. How? I'd simply bring an AK-47 derivative or a belt fed machine gun like a PKP Pecheneg, M240L, or M60E4. Anarchist societies are incompatible with weapons so his paradise will be unarmed. Those societies quickly devolve into he who has the weapons suddenly has the power and government.

edited 30th Dec '11 6:40:08 AM by MajorTom

Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Anarchist societies are incompatible with weapons

Major Tom Did Not Do The Research: Actually, anarchism typically relies on armed popular militias for its defense.

edited 30th Dec '11 6:49:10 AM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 12 Major Tom, Fri, 30th Dec '11 6:48:04 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Then it is not anarchist. The definition of anarchist society eliminates all organization of the state be it military, legal, what have you. A militia banded together to protect common ideas is no different than the purpose of the government to protect its common holdings and people. Worse it becomes heinously easy for that militia to clamp down and seize power away from such an "anarchist" society.

It's happened historically.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
The two modern examples of anarchists liberating territory would be Makhno's Black Army and Durruti's FAI (1920s Ukraine and 1930s Spain, respectively): Makhno's guys were anarcho-commies la Kropotkin, and Durruti's guys were anarcho-syndicalists.

Both the Free Territory and anarchist Catalonia were defended by militias. It actually worked reasonably well until they ran out of ordnance.
You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 14 Major Tom, Fri, 30th Dec '11 6:59:08 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
And that proves my point that historically such societies are effortlessly destroyed by established states. 10 years of length is the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of history.

Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
[up] Give'em a break: They waged temporarily successful two-front wars against the Right and the commies, and the Catalan FAI and the Ukrainian Black Army were actually above average in their military performance.

Before the commies stabbed'em in the back, the anarchists were pulling an Enemy Mine with them against the reactionaries. Makhno managed to crush Wrangel and Durruti pushed through Teruel and attempted to take Zaragoza. If Durruti's milicianos had succeeded, the Republic would've joined the Levant armies with the Basque industry and gudaris... But for some reason, the commies stopped sending ammo to Durruti at the gates of Zaragoza.

Still, the military history of anarchist militias is kinda off-topic.

edited 30th Dec '11 7:14:43 AM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 16 Major Tom, Fri, 30th Dec '11 7:15:06 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Give'em a break

No. They couldn't sustain themselves on their own. That's why anarchism is a complete failure in any form. It simply can never sustain itself.

edited 30th Dec '11 7:15:18 AM by MajorTom

Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
@Savage

As other posters have said, if you could get a society like that functioning, then you have no problem. And honestly, if the society is functioning, the biggest problem is going to be invasion from oppressive forces that are bothered by the success. I think, unlike Tom, that it's possible, just difficult.

Edit: @Tom, just because your definition of sustainability is being able to oppress others, doesn't mean everyone's is. Those communes didn't lose because they were anarchist, they lost because they were a) fighting a 2 front war against 2 foes that both had outside support and b) in the case of the Ukraine, they were a couple of farmers against the whole USSR. The USSR consummed the whole of eastern Europe, no small comune was going to stand up to it

edited 30th Dec '11 7:45:37 AM by stripesthezebra

 18 Caissas Death Angel, Fri, 30th Dec '11 8:23:40 AM from Dumfries, SW Scotland Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
House Lewis: Sanity is Relative
[up] Such communes would never survive. If you honestly think the world would ever not have a power that could/would annihilate such communes as soon as it became beneficial, then you need urgent psychiatric help.

From within or without, the desire for power or control would overwhelm them. Effective government is what stops that from happening in civilised societies.

And a society cannot be self sustaining in a vaccum in the modern era. Just can't. The international community is required, and if the commune really is in such a position whereby it can produce absolutely every resource it could ever need within a reasonable area, that will be taken away by someone stronger or more opportunistic very quickly.

edited 30th Dec '11 8:25:25 AM by CaissasDeathAngel

My name is Addy. Please call me that instead of my username.
 19 Major Tom, Fri, 30th Dec '11 8:27:20 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
From within or without, the desire for power or control would overwhelm them.

Indeed. All it takes to destroy an anarchist society is one man with the means to inflict force on others. These days it's with a gun. That only gets harder to contain if you have somebody willing to work for said force-user or worse allies from without helping him/her.

Government, even minimal government prevents this.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 20 Mrs Ratched, Fri, 30th Dec '11 8:47:52 AM from Spain Relationship Status: It's not my fault I'm not popular!
The Iron Throne is mine! By rights!
@Savage_heathen You seem to have a little mix about the SCW, Durruti was indeed a pretty horrible leader to their troops, wich were totally ineffectual to the point of ridiculous at the Battle for Madrid. As I have mentioned, anarchist spanish militias rejected any authority to the point of being totally useless...And the fact that they used to forget who they were fighting and turn onto their allies didn't help. It should be noted that communist forces were totallly ruthless and backstabbers and Spanish Republic was so fucking of a mess that one has to wonder if Franco wasn't the less of two evils.

That's what I have to say, as long as this is not an Spanish Civil War Thread, but about anarchism. Well, all i want to ask is, if the principle of non-linear business direction hadn't ever been applied with success, how would you like nations to work like that? Government is along with societies and civilizationship, that's how humankind works since prehistoric ages, cause, in the end, we work just like mammals, just read Hobbes
Hey you! Don't tell me there's no hope at all! Together we stand, divided we fall
scratching at .8, just hopin'
People and societies need organization. Read that sentence carefully. I said organization. Not hierarchy. They are not the same.

Now, assuming we've got this society functioning and stable (the hard part), there's a relatively easy workaround. The economy is organized by communes and co-ops? Simply treat each co-op and commune as a nation without borders, like the old Catholic Church, and allow them to recognize people with multiple "citizenships" - you can be a member/citizen of as many anarchist co-ops and communes as you so wish, and individual communes/co-ops can negotiate the travel of their members abroad or the sale of their goods in foreign markets accordingly. Ditto for interactions with the UN: the UN wouldn't like it because dealing with a dozen co-ops instead of one unified country is much messier, but that's their issue.

As for the protection of natural resources, any anarchist society will have to come to a popular consensus on how to harvest natural resources and prevent tragedies of the commons. It should not be so much more difficult for popular militias to enforce these guidelines than it is for them to enforce the rule "don't go around slaughtering people in the streets". As for protecting natural resources from outside powers, that's going to inevitably a challenge for any anarchist society. Sure outsiders may claim that a lack of recognition in international law allows them to go in and take what they want, but if you've paid any attention to world history, international law hasn't done much to prevent those with the power from going in and taking what they want. Those popular militias just better brush up on their asymmetrical warfare tactics and hope they can make a resource war too expensive for an invading power to bother. Considering what we've learned about insurgency effectiveness in even the last 50 years, this might very well be possible. It will come down to logistics, terrain, and manpower though. Always does.

Indeed. All it takes to destroy an anarchist society is one man with the means to inflict force on others. These days it's with a gun. That only gets harder to contain if you have somebody willing to work for said force-user or worse allies from without helping him/her.

Government, even minimal government prevents this.
Wrong on two counts. First of all, you're assuming a rejection of force on the part of the anarchists. These are not necessarily Suicidal Pacifism communes we're dealing with here. An anarchist society can easily recognize a few basic principles by which force can be justified (self-defense, for starters). Second, government does not prevent this. Indeed, it enables this, merely organizing who uses the force.

edited 30th Dec '11 10:42:35 AM by RadicalTaoist

@ Tom

Not sure where the idea that anarchists are pacifists come from, considering they were historically... quite well armed :P

@ OP

But if you assume you have that functioning society of yours is actually quite easy.

What other countries want is simply a statement of where you are from, so they know where to send you back to, and in this case it is your anarchist land. What shit do they give where they drop you off so long as it is somewhere in Anarchia? So all you really need for travel documents are companies (cooperatives, communes etc) that compete on printing people passports. You pay them money, they make you a passport that other countries can read in their computers or custom officers. Good enough.

Trade doesn't require anything special. Foreign organisation just buys goods from Anarchia on the open market with no government restrictions. Your real issue is that such trade links anarchist-organisations with non-anarchist organisations. For instance if your orange juice cooperative grow operation sells its wares to Mega Orange Juice Corp, then it is possible that your cooperative might develop some unsavoury connections. That may or may not be an issue, it's hard to say.

Travel within anarchia by foreigners is unrestricted. They'll just have to figure out the local law and justice organisations for each commune or risk breaking a law by accident. That's how it is today for visitors to other countries so there's no real difference except less border control.

Sovereignty claims aren't any different with anarchist to non-anarchist societies. If someone tries to take resources from an anarchist society, then the group within the anarchist society that has claim to that resource will have to build internal support to raise a militia to defend it. If we presume the armed militias are well organised with rational people who can see that losing resources to foreign competitors would have a really negative effect in the long run, then they'll help each other defend the land against attack.

Now I think maybe your issue is that you might say "Huh, all these problems are much more efficiently resolved by a single mega-entity but I have trouble figuring out how such an organisation doesn't become entrenched authority".

edited 30th Dec '11 11:09:17 AM by breadloaf

Pro-Freedom Fanatic
[up] A militia can protect land-based assets easily (just like an army): It's enforcing an Exclusive Economic Zone that'd get tricky.

The hard part would be to prevent foreign fisheries and oil companies from stealing their fish and their oil... You could kick them out with a few torpedo boats and RPG 29s... But unfortunately the anarchist coast guard'd be on the same ground legally as Somali pirates (that's been Somalia's main problem with not having a State).

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 24 Aceof Spades, Fri, 30th Dec '11 11:21:05 AM from The Wild Blue Yonder Relationship Status: I wanna know about these strangers like me
The main problem with that is people will eventually go "Man, I really don't feel like we should have to have a meeting to decide every little thing" and "wow, I like being able to control this shit." At a certain point, the need for efficiency requires you to put someone in charge of making decisions without calling for a consensus on every single thing. Especially if you've got a militia; someone's got to give the orders in a fight or you've got ridiculous chaos and a force that is easily beaten by those more organized. I'd say that in a militia having a hierarchy is even more important than among generally unarmed civilians. Being a defensive force requires a lot of discipline and chain of command.

Make any sort of hierarchy (and this is inevitable, because people like at least some organization) and the people who end up getting the trust/propaganda/whatever end up getting entrenched in power simply because they were there first and made the connections. An anarchic society doesn't have any way to really get rid of them, especially if they can just jump from one trade union to another when things get hairy. Hell, I'd say that an anarchic society faces more trouble from within than from without. (this is assuming it gets to become stable, as history has shown several supposedly stable countries that have fallen apart from internal struggle. There's no saying this anarchic society has to be taken over in order to fall. *shrug*)

The mega entity probably is more efficient, in at least that it can theoretically impose the same requirements on everyone within the society. Which is why democracy is a good thing; in enough numbers, people can enforce the laws on the government, as well as get the laws changed so that the authority can't be used unfairly. But I think I'm getting off topic now.
Actually, I'm pretty sure you are fine so long as it is armed militias of the anarchist society guarding it.

Members of militias not under the command of the armed forces, with the following traits:
  • that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
  • that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
  • that of carrying arms openly;
  • that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Your problem might be that, say if the US attacked, they'd declare you unlawful combatants and just ignore international law. But as far as actual international law is concerned, you just need to be an organised militia of that country (or anarchist society) to be a lawful combatant. Engaging against such a group would be considered war.

edited 30th Dec '11 11:23:55 AM by breadloaf

Total posts: 230
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