Excerpted from an autobiographical letter by Leslie Fish
(Fall, 1992. Edited by Mary Creasey)
Leslie Fish on Anarchy...
What sort of anarchist future would I like to see? There's no reason for a government-free society to be nothing but agrarian, no reason at all that it couldn't be industrial and space-faring. Anarchism is purely a political theory, holding that "power" -- the ability to force others to do you will -- is the root of all evil. Money is merely a useful shorthand for things-done or things-made, and is completely neutral; you can use it to buy food or buy a law. Money's a useful thing, and I think the poor should have more of it (hell, I should have more of it!). Power, on the other hand, is something nobody should have -- except the power to get the other guy's foot off your neck and hand out of your pocket.
So what I hope to see is a society that's free, knowledgeable, and can bootstrap itself into space as fast as possible. This planet is desperately overcrowded and overexploited (if you doubt that, look at Africa; the reason for the recent rash of famines is that the continent's population has doubled in the last 30 years, and there's not enough water or farmable land to feed that many people). The only humane solutions to those two problems are massive birth-control now and mass cheap-stardrive emigration as soon as we can do it. I fear the alternative, because I see it coming.
Prediction: there will be massive economic, political and social collapse which will cause the killing off of horrendous numbers of people and do gods-know what damage to our already overstrained environment. I don't think the collapse itself can be prevented, but maybe its effects can be made milder with enough education and planning. As to just what I'm doing on that score, more later.
As to what a free society would be like, nobody knows for sure because it's been so long since anyone did it on a large scale, and accounts of the small-scale attempts are hard to come by. I could tell you about Spain's anarchist provinces in the years before the Spanish Civil War, or the Ukraine when Nestor Makhno was protecting it, or the pirate society of Tortuga, or life beyond reach of the law on the American frontier -- too long to describe in detail here -- but even those give only a partial picture. All those societies were infected by personal and cultural habits of power-submission, surrounded by law-loving enemies and "reformers" who limited their capacities and ultimately did them in. They left intriguing hints of justice, internal peace, lack of bigotry, prosperity, and flowering of the arts and sciences -- enough to make the experiment well worth repeating -- but just what a totally free society would evolve into over the long run, nobody really knows. It would be fun to see though, wouldn't it?
When did I become an anarchist? Sometime in college, when I saw that passing laws didn't help anybody's rights. Oh sure, we managed to get the Civil Rights laws on the books -- and the bigots simply found other ways to keep Blacks poor and powerless and despised. I think what decided me was studying the Bill of Rights, and seeing how thoroughly those supposedly-absolute Thou Shalt Nots had been shot full of holes. In SDS I ran into people who pointed me toward classic anarchist writings and histories, which I read and was amazed by. There have been several anarchist societies -- I mentioned a few of them earlier -- and that little fact has been neatly censored out of the common history texts.