Pretty common thing I hear from people who have little idea what anarchism is, seem to think that anarchists do not believe in rules. Apparently we love chaos and destruction and selfish individualism and reject all forms of authority imposed upon the individual.
They couldn’t be further from the truth.
Yes, there are anarcho-individualists out there who really do have issues with anyone who dares question. Thankfully they’re a minority. I’d also question whether they are actually anarchists or not for reasons that will become clear later.
Anarcho-socialism is not about abolishing all forms of authority. That is simply impossible. There will always be differences in opinions between people and some people will always feel strongly about those and conflict (hopefully verbal) will occur. What anarchism is about is leveling the playing field and ensuring that authority is spread evenly amongst everyone in the community or workplace.
Currently your individual, or collective opinions are judged depending on how much capital you have. If you are a worker then you have little say over how your workplace is run, while your employer may dictate as they please. If you are a tenant then you have less say over what happens to your home than your landlord. This even applies to those who own a bit of capital and have formed large groups such as a residents association of homeowners having to deffer to politicans, who have been lobbied by big business, to decide how often their bins get emptied, whether a toxic waste dump is built outside the local school, or what laws they must adhere to.
By opting for a gift economy, capital is no longer used to weigh up how much somebody’s opinion is “worth”. Other kinds of socialists such as Trotskyists and Marxist Lenninists agree on this too. Where anarchism is different though is by taking note that representative democracy also leads to corruption, especially where ANY voices of opposition are judged to be “counter revolutionary”
Anyway, the model we opt for is for rules to be agreed upon by workplaces and communities through direct democracy where everything is voted upon by referendum. Now that might sound anything from tedious, to downright unworkable, however remember again that we’re talking about a different world to our own now, where these rules and laws are being made by the whole of the working class, not just a small elite and most crimes and motives for crimes are simply impossible to commit in a git economy. (You’d have a hard time stealing something that is free, or mugging somebody for cash when there is no money in the world).
What you’d likely end up is a small set of simple rules, each slightly individual to each community that have been agreed upon by the majority. There of course is some things that are pretty much universal that it’s pretty much certain every community would agree upon, such as not to assault fellow members of your community, informed adult consent in sexual relations and not to damage or take somebody’s personal possessions (their home, bike, TV, etc). On top of that there might be other things which is unique to each community that they think benefits all of their wellbeing such as a requirement to wear clothes, an age of majority for damaging products like tobacco or alcohol, or a requirement to work a certain number of hours to benefit from the produce of the community.
This is far from chaos, as it’s actually the community deciding upon the rules that they consider to be important to themselves, rather than having unpopular law and rule imposed on them by force by a third party.
Speaking of force. Lets talk about how these rules would be enforced too. Firstly you have to remember that unlike existing laws, these ones will have been agreed upon by the majority they effect and they should be enforced, unlike many of the rules that have been decided for us by illegitimate 3rd parties like we have now. The law and justice would be one and the same. As for how exactly each community would enforce those rules would be largely up to them, with some opting to establish professional police forces to gather evidence and bring suspects before a jury, while others might believe in alternative systems such as a sherrif style department where law enforcement is elected, or even rotated. Some smaller and more close knit communities would probably be happier just to deal with problems as they arise in their own ways.
Another criticism of anarchist organising is the so called “tyranny of the majority”, where a majority, no matter how small, can impose rules upon a majority that are downright oppressive and unfair. Once again, the gift economy comes to the rescue. In a system of a gift economy, work is divided up equally and fairly between all community workers, including the not so pleasant jobs to be rota’d. If a community is too oppressive of some of its workers, then they would leave the community and refuse to participate, meaning that there is less workers to divide the work up between. Rules and punishments for those who break the rules would have to be carefully considered by the community to decide whether it’s in the community’s best interests to act. This prevents “mob rule” where people go around hanging others, or otherwise being oppressive, with little consequence for their actions and ensures that any sort of criminal justice system is fair for all members of the community. In summary, what’s good for the individual is good for the community and vice versa.
There is the question from Individualists, as to whether to have any rules, or enforcement at all. Most of us agree that this is a bad idea and actually works in opposition to anarchist thinking. With no rules, the physically strongest, or craftiest individuals would actually have more authority over the other members of their community
All in all you’ve got a very watertight system, where everyone is accountable for their own actions, both as an individual and as a community, where there are rules, but they are fair and with the support of the people. This is not a system for chaos and disorder, but harmony and order. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t be fighting for it.