At a time of writing a lot about crime and justice during my criminological studies at university
level, I took to reading books about the Spanish Civil War and watching news reports of trade unions battling with the Australian federal government over industrial relations. This got me interested intellectually in the cause of anarchism. Of course, spattered
throughout this time there was also a number of stories of crimes committed by seemingly inherently evil individuals. I decided to start writing my own thesis on the cause of Anarchists and the criminal justice system. Mind you, this was a number of years
ago now and most of the books and articles that I had have disappeared in the many moves since. As you can see, I didn't get far with the writing of it back then as reality bites subsequently the following sat on a floppy disk and has now resided on my trusty
hard drive for a while.
The idea of inherently evil individuals has re-emerged a number of times over these years, most recently we had the murder of Jill Meagher by a man who had been in
and out of prison for rape since he was young. Now people are beginning to question the justice system again about issues like early release and parole. Questions such as who are the people who make up the parole board and why do they seem to get it wrong?
This lead me, along with a friend of mine posting about anarchists on facebook (Yes, i saw those posts.. You know who you are!) to revisit my previous writings and think about what would an anarchist do or say about these individuals, would they not want a
system to keep others safe from this individual??
As a bit of a preface to the subject, I thought you may enjoy a bit of the poetic licence I took with the terminology in criminology and criminal justice. So, it was that following several years of studying and then
working in the public service as an admin/civvie, in fact in the very industry that I had studied up to that point, I wrote the following poem. I tried to throw in as many of the sociological/criminological terms that I could think of. It seems I went a bit
off track in later stanzas but you get the idea. I thought i would put it here as an interesting reference point for those not as familiar with industry terms.
The conforming ritualist
I’ve been an anarchistic bureaucrat,
A ritualistic rebel come to that.
A realistic ideologue,
Who simply retreated into the grog.
Some say an atavistic
some period, stormy and black.
Its no wonder I’m confused,
Just waiting to be the accused.
I was the perfect victim,
But as the predator, I kicked em!
School taught me how to spell,
And life taught me how
Even been a conforming psychopath,
Do the right thing now or suffer my wrath.
Currently I’m a rebellious innovator,
Struggling on life’s little escalator.
My life is an open book,
Empty pages, don’t bother to look.
Suffered with a guilty conscience as a crook,
So, they got my short and curly’s on a hook.
There I was imprisoned
for many years,
And lost countless tears.
For a while I was released,
Only to end up as the deceased.
Went to the church on Sundays,
Then murdered on mass on Mondays.
Neither a 'goodfella' nor lived the ‘good life’,
Just a man in serious
Now, as a responsible adult,
I always talk about anarchistic revolt.
But there was a time, as a kid,
From this anomic society I ran away and hid.
Using the terms 'atavistic throwback' is, in reality,
a double up, something akin to saying 'ATM machine'. Where the M stands for machine. An 'atavist' is a biological throwback to our cavemen ancestors. This label was used in a time when measurement of ones anatomy and using that to pronounce ones level of criminality
or deviance was commonplace. Basically, an atavist was considered similar to an apeman and more likely to commit crimes.
Anyway, here is my brief introductory piece to the thesis I was going to write one day. That day has yet to come and much water has gone under
the bridges I have crossed since.
So, what would an Anarchist do?
According to the World Book Dictionary, the term ‘Anarchy’
means an absence of a system of government and law. Following on from this ‘Anarchism’ is defined as the political theory that all systems of government and law are harmful. Believers in anarchism think that all such systems prevent individuals
from reaching their greatest development. There is a diversity of theories among anarchists and various labels such as ‘anarcho-syndicalism’. Anarcho-syndicalists are of the opinion that trade unions have two tasks: 1) As the fighting organisation
of the workers against the employers and to enforce the demands of the workers for the safeguarding and raising of their standard of living. 2) As the school for the intellectual training of the workers to become acquainted with the technical management of
production and life in general so that when a revolutionary situation arises they are capable of taking the socioeconomic organism into their own and remaking it according to socialist principles.
There are even anarcho-capitalists whose ideas originate from Molinari, a Belgian economist. These are anarchist only in that they reject government and support a free market, meaning free from state interference. They support property rights, police and even the military which is to be used for defence
purposes only. My interest in this issue was sparked again when I read Colin Ward’s book titled ‘Anarchy in Action’. I had previously thought about the system ie government rules and regulations and how that suppresses individualism. These
thoughts have lead me to research the concept of what mechanisms would an anarchist put in place for the control of those acts considered to be deviant or criminal such as paedophilia?? In this he states that anarchism in all its guises is an assertion of
human dignity and personal responsibility. It is not a program for political change but an act of social self-determination.
The questions raised in this paper are: How would an anarchist society view and deal with crime and justice issues?? Is it possible for people
to organise themselves without government and the legal system? These questions will be explored utilising several historical examples eg the Paris Commune, Spanish
Civil War and something closer to home - the Eureka Stockade. The Eureka Stockade was bought into focus with the Unions usage of the Southern Cross
flag in their battle against the upcoming changes to Industrial Relations legislation proposed by the Federal government lead by the then Prime Minister John Howard. Firstly, what was life like in terms of crime and justice when there is no order, little or
no government rule??
The old saying “no man is an island” seems appropriate here. When people live in communities do they not have to sacrifice some individual freedoms for the sake of the whole. Isn't this where the idea of Socialism or the more extreme Communism
came from? Even Albert Einstein, who wouldn't call himself an expert on economics or sociological theories, believed he could comment on the nature of socialism... Socialism is not Anarchism but neither is
free-market Capitalism, both are more organised. However, when dealing with crime, how would a bunch of people in a place with no system or rules deal with that? How would they deal with rapists, pedophiles, serial killers etc??? These questions are of strong
interest to me but I will admit to having no answers at this time. Ward does talk about it in his book, how anarchists dealt with deviance, often more brutally than the organised structures of democracies.
According to Durkheim, crime in society is normal as it is society that defines deviance. In fact, he believed a flourishing crime rate was a sign of a healthily progressive society. On a side note, do you know how hard it is to search the internet for
the term 'deviance' without getting bombarded by pornographic references. The Internet has been called the 'wild west', a place where there is no rules, you would think the perfect place for anarchists. Perhaps the Internet is the ultimate healthily progressive
society, it definitely has a flourishing crime rate. The crime rate being scams and viruses perpetrated by hackers and terrorists, people who definitely deviate from the norm. While most are happy to participate in the internet community, there are those who
seek to bring it down or at least use it for their own ends. What came first the chicken or the egg or in other words deviation from the norm or society's norms?
How does the Internet deal with scams and viruses, well, the community tend to do a lot of talking about the problem
in forums and a few will come up with solutions or safeguards. Of course, this usually comes at a cost but there is little effective government interference in the working of the Internet. Private providers promote security packages designed to keep out the
hacking, virus-spreading hordes, usually at a hefty price. Governments try to keep their citizens from promoting certain words or actions but the world-wide web is bigger than any one government and so it is hard to police even in those totalitarian countries
where censorship is paramount to control. How much harder in western democracies?
In the words of Rage Against The Machine “When ignorance is bliss, then knock that smile off my face.” As you can see, i have drawn on a number of sources for this beginning of an idea/discussion
about, at its core, society and how various ideologies would deal with situations close to home and heart. The last words i leave to another poem I wrote a while back, more a commentary on the battles of religious ideology and state organisation.
Society at war
For those who believe in Nothing,
Will see Something as a threat.
For those that believe in Something,
see that Nothing is spared.
Wars will be waged and people will fight,
Even with so much loss of life.
In places where there's no light,
People will find a cause.
It may be wrong and it may hurt,
But it won't stop them from trying.
Be afraid, be alarmed and be alert,
Watch for those with a cross to bear.
The only way forward is with
But no 'school of hard knocks' required.
The mass propaganda at every station,
Has to terminate somewhere.
Am I the only one to think about these things? I don't think so... but
stay tuned for my next post which will be called 'The only one in the
For those of you who are interested in history and anarchy, here is
some material that was my starting point.
Colin Andrews, “Anarchy in action” 1998 – Freedom Press
Burnett Bolloten, “The Grand Camouflage – The Communist
in the Spanish Civil War” 1961 – Hollis & Carter London.
David Thomson, “Europe since Napoleon” 1974 – Pelican Book
Compiled by Mike Fitzgerald, Gregor McLennan and Jennie Pawson,
“Crime & Society – Readings in History and Theory” 1981 – The Open
R Ewin, “Liberty, Community and Justice” 1987 – Rowman & Littlefield
World Book Dictionary
Albert Einstein, “Why socialism?” May 2004 – Monthly Review
Randall Holcombe, “Is Government inevitable?” Spring 2005 – The
Peter Leeson & Edward Stringham, “Is Government inevitable?
on Holcombes analysis” Spring 2005 – The Independent