Anarchism and the Big Society

The gut reaction for many of us when thinking of Cameron’s ConDem proposals for a ‘Big Society’ is that it is just one very big con.

riseupWhilst they utter media soundbites around rolling back the state, individual freedom and real community control & choice, we see it as just a cover for cutting and trashing all forms of welfare spending and services and replacing them with privately run ones that we will have to pay a lot more for. Very much a case of freedom if you can afford it. Most of us can’t of course.

It is of course not quite as simple as that, and it is worth reading further on the matter. The following article, published in Freedom newspaper on 26 February 2011, was written by long term anarchist & part of the Black Flag collective, Iain McKay. We reprint the first few paras of the article, and give a link to the full article online which includes further reading. Read on:

Anarchism and the Big Society
In the Independent (16/02/11), Brian Lincoln from Edinburgh wrote a letter discussing David Cameron’s “Big Society” and anarchism:

“In proposing the ‘Big Society’ as the antidote to ‘big government’, has David Cameron converted to anarchism, the political philosophy which most wants to get the state out of everything?
In an 1896 text, the Russian revolutionary Peter Kropotkin explains that anarchism ‘seeks the most complete development of individuality combined with the highest development of voluntary association in all its aspects, in all possible degrees, for all imaginable aims; ever-changing, ever-modified associations which carry in themselves the elements of their durability and constantly assume new forms which answer best to the multiple aspirations of all’. Familiar?”

Yet this is a selective account of anarchism, completely ignoring its economic ideas and the means advocated to achieve it. This can be seen from the text quoted, namely Kropotkin’s Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal. Yes, Kropotkin does argue for free association but he recognises that this is only truly possible in a society without class division for “we know full well today that it is futile to speak of liberty as long as economic slavery exists.” Thus capitalism meant the worker must “sell his labour power for less than it is capable of bringing in” and Kropotkin points to “the fatal consequences of the present forms of property.”

Read full article, includes links to further reading.