Anarchism & Nonviolence: Exploring Common Ground

Anarchism is perhaps the most misunderstood of all political philosophies. This may be due to a variety of factors including anarchists’ own reluctance to create blueprints or rigid definitions, as well as the mainstream culture’s caricature of the “violent anarchist” that has led to numerous examples of repression and demonization. Far from being a theory of violence, anarchism in both historical and contemporary milieus is actually much more closely aligned with the principles and tenets of nonviolence.

Some of these parallels and points of agreements include a deep-seated rejection of coercion, the necessary connectedness of means and ends, a spirit of fluidity and spontaneity, and a radical notion of egalitarianism based on mutual respect. Indeed, strands of anarchism can be found in the teachings of Gandhi and Tolstoy, among others; as Gandhi once observed: “That state is perfect and nonviolent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence.” Still, it remains the case that anarchists are sometimes suspicious of nonviolence devotees, and the same is often true in reverse.

 

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