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Autonomy: Definition and Meaning

An interesting piece from The National Revolutionary Alternative

The word “autonomy” is a combination of the words “autos” and “nomos”, derived from the ancient Greek language, which literally means “own law”. “Autonomy” is the designation for a certain way of thinking, in which independence and individual freedom on the basis of social justice and -equality as well as solidarity are the main principles. However this individual freedom is not meant in the way neoliberals underpin this (licentiousness of autonomous and selfresponsible people, that is to say torn apart from the people), but the opposite of it; individual freedom by collectivity!

Being-autonomous, means being undependent. To be undependent means meeting ones own needs, organizing and governing yourself in order to survive. It means self-sufficiency; one takes what one can use to survive and to accomplish certain political goals. Self-organisation is necessary to collectively retain independence and individual freedoms. For this, resistance is the only path towards freedom and thus is self-organisation absolutely necessary. Self-organisation is needed to achieve collective goals, such as social justice and -equality. Independence is what autonomy is all about. We don´t want to be dependend on some kind of State, Party, Union or leader (Führer). Autonomists think for themselves, decide for themselves and act by themselves! They don´t need anybody who offers “help” from above or tells them what to do, they solve their own problems. They rely on their own force and decisiveness and couldn’t care less about the laws imposed by the establishment. Autonomists practice self-government, that is to say self-organisation.

Therefore this leads to fundamental implications, if being-autonomous is seen as merely a means of action. Being-autonomous requires a certain ideological way of thinking, which can be put into practice in different ways.

Being-autonomous means act for yourself, think for yourself and act independent. (and don´t wait for instructions, commands from above, from somekind of leader, pope, chairman, tribune, Union or Party boss, in short any authority whatsoever!) Being-autonomous means being averse to any form of authority, means being aversive of any State authority. Autonomists don´t wait for improvements or changes from above (elections), they take matters into their own hands (therefore “Direct Action”- action from the grassroots, by the masses without intervention of selfproclaimed leaders and mediators of Unions or Political Parties). The masses don´t need leaders from outside, they are their own leader. The masses themselves are the vanguard.
This way (anti-authoritarian, anti-Statist, anti-hierarchic) of thinking logically leads toward methods of action. One example is the concept of “Direct Action” (action without intervention of any authority whatsoever) against the State, against the authority and bosses – by the masses themselves. (Some examples are the Cultural revolution 1966-1969, The Mai revolt of workers in Paris, the student uprise of 1968 and the 1969-movement in Italy.) Another example is the “black block”, not only an expression of collective anonymity, but also of collective uniformity; We are all equal, we are one collective unity! No leaders, no followers, no bullshit! There are no leaders, we are all leaders. We are our own vanguard. By means of uniform garb this is stressed; We are all equal (egalitarism). There are no leaders. If there is any case of “leadership” at all, then this is collective leadership by the collective Black Block. The Black Block as collective leader – as collective vanguard (for example in the struggle against the cops). (Such a way of thinking does of course provide issues for discussion, also and above all within the anarchoscene).
Being-autonomous does absolutely and before all else mean the rejection of any authority and all that which is sanctioned by the authorities (uniformed or not). Being-autonomous means opposing any form of hierarchy or authoritarian structures (State, army, church, Party, Union). Only the masses themselves are “pure”, revolutionary, so only the actions of the masses themselves can be considered “pure” and revolutionary, all the other must be rejectes as;
1: Bureacratic 2: Reactionary 3: Bourgeois 4: Hierarchic. 
Being-autonomous means opposing any form of personality cult, only the masses are the true heroes. Averse to any Fuhrer worshipping (Hitler, Stalin, Kim il Sung, etc.). Averse of any chauvinism (political boundaries are not recognized!). “Autonomous” Hitlerists are just as much an impossibility as “Autonomous” Strasserists are.  
“He who is not afraid of death by a thousand cuts dares to unhorse the emperor” – Mao Zedong
1: No leadership (from outside or above) 2: True revolutionary action only comes forth from the masses themselves 3: The masses themselves are the vanguard (without intervention from outside) 
No leaders, no followers! No bull-shit! 
The masses are the vanguard, they are the leaders!

Organizing National-Anarchist Networks

The following is a transcript of a slideshow by the now-defunct Bay Area National-Anarchists, back from 2009. While not perfect, it gives a pretty good introduction to starting a National-Anarchist Network.

Organizing National-Anarchist Networks; or, How to Build the National-Anarchist Movement


Part I: Network Theory

What is a Network?

A Network of people consists of two or more individuals that connect with each other in common cause. The most important aspect of successful networking is growing the number of connections to likeminded people.

Traits: An effective Network is self-organizing, always available, fault tolerant, and capable of handling losing nodes without loss of effectiveness.

What is the Difference Between an Organization and a Network?

1. An organization is not a movement.

2. An organization has formalities, hierarchy, officers, policies, and relies on single points of failure (primarily the leadership).

3. Organizations depend exclusively on the effectiveness of their leaders.

4. Networks have no:
*official officers
*Strict discipline

5. Networks have:
*A unique culture
*Many perspectives
*Social yet informal standards of behavior

The National-Anarchist Movement may best be described as an autonomous subculture of self-managing Networks.

For example, the BANA Network has the ground rules that our activists must be drug free, trustworthy, and productive to society in some fashion (working, studying, or family life).

6. Networks depend on the affinity (value) likeminded people give each other for the purpose of organizing.

7. Characteristics of Networks:
*Relationship driven (relationships built on trust)
*United by core values (beliefs), indifferent towards differences

This makes building Networks more flexible than creating organizations. This also makes Networks dependant on the quality of people involved at all levels of organizing. Many skillsets are desirable.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

The ideal Network is a Mesh:

First pic

A fully developed Network contains characteristics of a Tribal society which is a primary goal of forming Networks of National-Anarchists.

The ideal organization is top-down:

Second pic

Organizations are results driven, like a corporation, and should be judged as such. If they don’t produce profits (or results) they should go out of business. National-Anarchists get results by networking with all kinds of political activists and strengthening their community’s ability to get things done without Government or Capitalism.

When the movement reaches a point when an organization is needed for a local community, the Network will have the leaders with the most experience and skills in diplomacy.

Part II: Network Praxis

Things you can do:
*Dedicate a certain ammount of time each week to the cause
*Start a blog with your Network’s name, where you are located, and state your core values
*Distribute fliers at protests

About your views:
*Talk with all kinds of people about National-Anarchism: Leftists, Rightists, Apolitical, etc.
*Make or attend events to meet people and talk about National-Anarchism
*Set aside some money each month for movement activities

Part III: Network Activism

What It Takes to Reach Success

*First, there is one and only one kind of political activism…On the streets and in real life
*Online activism is a myth…Online activities spread information, it does not advance the movement
*Furthermore it is impossible to represent our people in virtual worlds

My Goals:

1. Devote 20 minutes a day to the cause.

2. Bring a greater amount of comedy and laughter at the expense of the opposition.

3. Talk to more people in real life about National-Anarchism and how it is a progressive ideology for our collective.

The Equation of Success: Time/Effort = Results

Expect a 1% return on investment for all of your initiatives. The moral is, get more active to get more results!

4. Keep it fun. This is essential to keep high morale. Social, physical activities, that promote teamwork and trust are perfect for this: rock climbing, camping, hiking, etc.

In order to reach your goals in life, there is a quote I like from a world renowned athlete, actor, and politician:

“This last two or three or four repetitions, that’s what makes the muscles grow. That’s what divides one from a champion and one from not being a champion. If you can go through the pain period, you make it to be a champion. If you can’t go through it, forget it. And that’s what most people lack: Having the guts – the guts to go in and just say…”I don’t care what happens.” I have no fear of fainting in the gym… I threw up many times when I was working out. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all worth it.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

In our experience, talking to ten people in real life about National-Anarchism is more effective than 1000 online. Remember that most people have never heard of National-Anarchism. Peoples’ opinions will be formed  based on your confidence, your unique communication style, and the presentation of the idea. Don’t play to lose, play to win.

If someone gets hostile towards you for being a National-Anarchist keep in mind these words from a war veteran on courage:

“…Courage is the wind that drives to the far coasts, the key to all treasures, the hammer that crafts great Empires. The armor without which no culture exists. Courage is the effort of one’s own person to the last consequence, the jump start of an idea against matter, without care for what comes of it… To the Devil with the times that want to take from us courage and men.”
In conclusion we covered:
*Things to do
*What it takes to reach success

For more information visit

Video January 2009
Runa Raven Collective
Bay Area National-Anarchists

How to Start a Modern Sustainable Living Community (right where you’re at)

via Frugally Sustainable

How to Start a Modern Sustainable Living Community (right where you're at)

A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of attending the Plant Healer’s Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous at Mormon Lake just outside of Flagstaff, AZ.

It was a magical time!

One full of cutting-edge classes, folk music, dance, and plant celebration.

But more importantly, it was the community.

The weekend was driven with purpose. Everyone was happy, healthy, and active. For a few days we all lived together in a community where it became the norm to:

  • wake naturally with the sun.
  • laugh.
  • engage in intellectual socialization.
  • share mealtimes.
  • drink tea together.
  • take plant walks.
  • hike in the forest.
  • rest our bodies as needed.

It certainly was a sharp contrast to the lifestyle of many in the U.S. – as we often find ourselves living in communities where it is largely common to wake in the morning with an obnoxious alarm, live with anxiety, sit isolated most of the day, eat whatever foods are fast and/or convenient, watch tons of TV, stress out about time…

It is true that many of us have found ways to reject these negative habits of our culture, yet I think it’s safe to say that we often struggle to find a supportive group of people to foster further/deeper growth.

So what are we supposed to do if we’re ”in with the wrong group of people”?

Start a sustainable living community.

Framework of a Sustainable Living Community
*As I was searching online for tips on starting a sustainable living community, I was enlightened by reading this article written by Leo Babauta. It was the trigger that set my mind on course and the catalyst for this post.

Thankfully, there isn’t one single shape for which a sustainable living community can fit into – if you look at other successful communities such as the examples set forth in the…

  • intentional community
  • eco-village
  • cohousing
  • commune
  • co-op
  • religious cooperatives

…there are a plethora of routines and practices that the people living in these communities hold to.

Nevertheless, here are seven that seem to be of utmost importance:

  1. Live within seasonal bounds. Proponents of sustainable living aim to conduct their lives in such a way that mimic the example given to us in nature. Natural balance and respectful for humanity’s relationship with the Earth’s natural ecology and cycles should be our driving force. This could include — yet is by no means limited to – the practices of: (a) Waking up naturally. As quoted from Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., in Improve your sleep quality by waking up naturally, “waking up naturally is far gentler on the body. Teach yourself to wake up on time by priming your body’s internal clock – stick to a regular bedtime routine  and train yourself to wake at a certain time. Go to bed at the same time  every night and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. No alarm  clocks! If you continue to keep the same bedtime and wake up naturally, you’ll eventually dig your way out of fatigue and arrive at the sleep schedule that’s ideal for you.” (b) Eating seasonal foods. Those foods that can either be grown, preserved, hunted for, or gathered in your local area during — and throughout — each change in season. (c) Using plants as medicine. For every season of the year and of life, there is a plant to help the body heal.
  2. Meet together. Interacting daily with others is of vital importance within the sustainable living community. Whether it be talking via phone or email, visiting neighbors, ride-sharing, coordinating bulk food purchases, going to church, or hosting a DIY get-together…interact daily with others in the community.
  3. Positive outlook on life. Attitude is EVERYTHING. A “can-do,” positive attitude possesses healing powers. Dispel all negativity within the community and live with purpose.
  4. Reduce Poisonous Habits. A majority of our most poisonous habits have their roots in hyper-consumption and convenience. In order to reduce poisonous habits, we must first look to alter our spending habits, methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet. Likewise, it is important to note that the most healthy sustainable societies have built-in requirements for daily physical activity – whether it is working the land or walking to get around. It is usually performed for exercise, out of necessity, and/or for socializing purposes.
  5. Eat together. Adopting a traditional diet – and sharing it in the company of others — is a truly nourishing experience. The hunter/gatherer within the sustainable living community is responsible for, and finds joy in, food preparation and meal coordination. They achieve ultimate fulfillment in bringing life-giving sustenance to the group — and likewise recognize the importance of eating together.
  6. Grow your own. Gardens are sprouting up (literally) all over the place (home and public). It’s a revolution of sorts! Gardening is an extremely therapeutic, empowering, and bonding experience. An absolute necessity for the thriving sustainable living community.
  7. Foster accountability. To be accountable within a sustainable living community means you have an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for your own actions. A lifestyle that attempts to reduce one’s own – or society’s – use of the Earth’s natural and personal resources almost demands accountability in order for the dream to be realized.

okay…and one more

Live with an open heart and open hands. The very word “community” tells a story of devotion to others…not only to oneself. The sustainable living community must live with an open heart and open hands toward each other — sharing everything and combining resources. When we are committed to each other, as a group, and have everything in common…selling our possessions and goods in order to give to anyone as they have need, healing the sick, and caring for those who need our help doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

There are without a doubt other practices that are important to a sustainable living community (include yours in the comments below), but I think the seven eight things outlined above would be a sure part of laying a good foundation for the group.

What does a sustainable living community look like? Practically.

I assume that the large majority of us live “regular” lives in either a modern urban, suburban, or rural setting.

Hear me when I say…completely withdrawing from society and living in a commune is not AT ALL the goal here.

A sustainable living community can be successfully created in a multitude of situations.

For example ::

With Like-Minded People

Two people are all that’s needed to form a community. All we need is one other person that “gets it” to join us in our mission. And as the pillars, practices, and new routines of our lifestyle begin to bleed out…others close to you might be inspired to join when they see all of the healthy, more sustainable, changes you’ve made.

Start with local like-minded family and/or friends.

And perhaps, in the beginning, just start by meeting regularly together.

You all could…create the ritual of some sort of physical activity together (i.e. yoga/hiking/walking/perhaps helping with farm chores/etc.). In a few weeks, aim to coordinate bulk buying habits and perhaps schedule a day to preserve the foods together (maybe even combining financial resources to purchase items necessary for canning, energy reduction, and water conservation). Next, you could commit to reducing one poisonous habit together. And so on.

Get together regularly — daily if at all possible, but 2-3 times a week minimally. But if you can’t, make sure to you talk on the phone, on Facebook, or via email. Make it a daily priority. This type of consistent contact helps you get support from each other, keep each other accountable, and forms a bond while doing something meaningful together.


If you can’t seem to find anyone like-minded person locally, then find them online.

Today we have little excuse for not being able to find people interested in similar things to what we’re interested in – they exist in troves online.

Unsure and nervous about where/how to start?

How about Facebook friends, or Facebook groups? Or daily visits to a few sustainable, natural living, eco-friendly blogs and join the commenting community. You could also search for (on Google or ask in the comments of this blog post) and find online forums that focus on the topics you’re interested in.

And when you do find a few online friends, start your own group. Or forum. Or better yet…start your own blogging community together!

There are a multitude of ways to join and/or form an online group that communicates regularly. One that can support each other toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

Your Neighborhood

Attempting to start a sustainable living community within your neighborhood may be one of the toughest options out there!

This based on several different reasons, yet most often due to the fact that:

  • influencing a large group of people to change is hard.
  • you may not talk to your neighbors that much (consider it a blessing if you do)!
  • trying to convince people who might not want to change that they need to change is near impossible.

But don’t focus on the negative!

You can start small by simply getting to know your neighbors, and creating something new and exciting.

In the beginning, you could lay the foundation for a sustainable living community in your neighborhood by:

  • starting a community garden
  • hosting a DIY get-together
  • open your home to teaching people sustainable living practices such as soap-making, herbal medicine, gardening, or keeping chickens.
  • ride-sharing.

These are just a few ideas.

The greatest challenge is learning the needs and desires of those living around you and coming up with ways to meet them…sustainably.

American National-Anarchism

“American national anarchism is pan anarchism.” – Craig FitzGerald, NATA-NY

 This essay is included in the recently released National-Anarchism: Methodology and Application, edited by Troy Southgate and available from Black Front Press.

by Jamie O’Hara and Craig FitzGerald

The connotations of the word “nation” have been so intertwined with the concept of a State that contemporary anarchists have generally rejected the term as something intrinsically oppressive. The globalization-era anarchist obsession with the eradication of all borders is well-intentioned but harmfully misdirected. Arbitrary State borders are meaningless symbols at best and justification for genocide at worst, but a world without any boundaries at all is unrealistic. Even for individuals who choose to live in communal tribes where everything is shared and privacy is limited, not everyone on earth is truly equally “welcome.” Only like-minded people are invited; this is the basis of all intentional communities and collectives. Any infinitely open invitational rhetoric is based on the arrogant assumption that people who don’t agree with the tribe’s beliefs will quickly learn and adopt them. People with different values and goals can peacefully co-exist and interact, but humans will always impose borders on their own lives. Rather than rid the world of borders, it makes more sense to re-think and re-apply them. Upon analysis, most individuals will find that they maintain many different associations, each perhaps with its own set of boundaries. These entities might include ethnic, family, trade, intellectual, artistic, fraternal or political groups, or geographic areas, including existing states. Freedom of association is a core anarchist principle, and it is up to individuals and local communities whether they identify with a larger federation and/or participate in a system of voluntary governance.
The United States of America was intended by many of its founders to be such a voluntary arrangement.

 In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson relies on the social contract theory of government to justify the secession of the colonies. He introduces the American list of grievances by speaking in very general terms about the periodic need for political revolution. [1] He asserts that “whenever any Form of Government becomes” oppressive, people should “alter or…abolish it” [emphasis added]. Jefferson recognized that the situation between the Americans and the British Crown was not a special case but merely one instance “in the course of human events” when it is “necessary for one people to dissolve…political bands…” The social contract theory holds that relations between the government and the people are voluntary, and if one party violates the terms of the agreement, it becomes null and void. In other words, as soon as the government fails to protect the rights of the people, it automatically abdicates its role.

Jefferson’s emphasis on the social contract philosophy of government rests on the premise of voluntary participation in the American union. The confederation was composed of local states, which originally self-defined as nations, and was established primarily for the purposes of foreign diplomacy and regional amity. The 1781 Articles of Confederation emphasizes that by freely associating, the states were strengthening without sacrificing their autonomy. The document immediately proclaims that “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States.” [2] The Articles of Confederation captures the raw early spirit of an American identity that emphasized freedom and self-determination.

Although much of its philosophical background is European, the Articles of Confederation was also influenced by indigenous American models of association, in particular the Iroquois confederacy. The Iroquois League of Peace and Power was a network of completely autonomous tribes. A Grand Council united the various nations, but could not regulate them or enforce anything through coercive means. As early as 1744, the Onondaga Chief Canasatego recommended that the American colonies unite through a confederation similar to that of the Iroquois League. [3] In 1751, Benjamin Franklin compared the Iroquois system to the union he was attempting to create. [4] In 1778, John Adams refers to the indigenous American [5] practice of separating branches of power. [6] Three years later, the newly-liberated states publish the Articles of Confederation, which presented a vision for a voluntary alliance that closely resembled the Iroquois League, which has clear anarchist elements. [7]

From an anarchist perspective, the historical transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution is disappointing. The primary document of the United States shifted from a treaty among sovereign locales to an incomplete governmental blueprint whose strategic ambiguity has allowed for ridiculous abuses throughout the years. The Constitution solidified coercive measures that completely contradict the American philosophy. It establishes the powers to tax, criminalizes rebellion (the foundation of the United States), codifies slavery, and reserves the “right” to suspend habeas corpus. However, this development in the direction of concentrated statism does not represent the revolutionary views of the majority of Americans. Despite centralizing changes like the creation of an executive office and a federal court system, American libertarian ideals were still reflected in the Bill of Rights. The fledgling nation, in its attempts to confederate and cooperate, was concerned with the potential for abuses of power and intently focused on the necessity to curtail federal control. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments, intended to protect individual and local sovereignty, are most reminiscent of the earlier Articles of Confederation.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right of personal belief and free association. The five enumerated essentials—religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition—are all manifestations of individualism and nationhood. In other words, participation in the American nation secures one’s participation in many other associations—spiritual, political, artistic, regional, ethnic, etc. This is an assurance that has made the United States unique, and it depends on the full engagement of all Americans down to the most local level. To safeguard the rights of free expression and association, the establishment of grassroots community defense groups is a necessary endeavor. The Second Amendment is clear in its assertion that individual self-defense and local militias are requirements for the protection of liberty.

In 1791, the same year that the Bill of Rights was passed, Thomas Paine authored Rights of Man, which also captures the early American spirit of self-regulation over coercive statism. “The more perfect civilization is,” Paine writes: “the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself.” [8] In addition to the recognition that man should determine the course of his own life, Paine addresses the tendency for the State to actually harm society: “Excess of government only tends to incite…and create crimes which…had never existed.” [9] The masses’ desire for safety and security fails to justify the establishment and perpetuation of an institution that not only strips individuals of their creativity and agency, but also introduces new and unnecessary societal and international problems.

Unfortunately not all early Americans were as anarchistic as Paine, and the decision to ratify the Constitution introduced a stream of federal power abuses. However, elements of resistance persisted even within the new political framework. Despite his inconsistencies and imperfections, Jefferson continued to defend decentralism after the Constitution solidified a central State. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 illustrate this perspective. Direct responses to the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Resolutions assert the right of localities to nullify unconstitutional legislation. The documents rest heavily on the social contract theory of government — the relationship between individuals, communities, counties, states and the federal government is a voluntary one, and all parties are accountable to the mutual agreement. Jefferson attempts to clarify a common misconception about federalism to an Englishman: “With respect to our State and federal governments, I do not think their relations correctly understood by foreigners. They generally suppose the former subordinate to the latter. But this is not the case. They are co-ordinate departments of one simple and integral whole. […] The one is the domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government; neither having control over the other, but within its own department.” [10]

Jefferson’s nineteenth century letters advocate localism as a necessary aspect of voluntary confederation. He acknowledged the impossibility of monolithic governance for all of the states and saw the importance of regional autonomy: “Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government,” he wrote in 1800. [11] Jefferson recommended the division of territory into smaller and smaller jurisdictions, each level operating under self-government. In 1816, he suggests the division of “counties into wards of such size as that every citizen can attend, when called on, and act in person.” [12] Each ward should create its own autonomous social structures, institutions, and culture, and individuals should be inextricably connected to their local communities. “Making every citizen an acting member of the government, and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him, will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence of his country, and its republican constitution.” [13] Jefferson saw a direct correlation between the citizen’s participation in national politics and his participation in the most local of social structures. The republic as a whole was a macrocosm of the local municipalities: “Each ward would thus be a small republic within itself, and every man in the State would thus become an acting member of the common government…” [14]

Voluntary, active participation in the self-regulation of a community is often complemented by similar financial models. Jefferson was a fervent opponent of centralized banking institutions and condemned the Hamiltonian plan for a national bank as unconstitutional. [15] He was not alone in his defense of freedom from economic oppression. Free market economic incentives have always been a central aspect of American history, and smuggling and tax evasion were common. Black markets were widespread because of the distance between the “new world” colonies and their “old world” masters, and the consequential difficulty of enforcing mercantilist economic policies. This fostered a culture of American economic liberty whose pragmatism paralleled its philosophical spirit. Traditional populist American economics cultivated a vibrant agora.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, one of the most important and influential anarchist thinkers, held economic theories that resembled Jeffersonian ideas and early American market styles. He suggested a system of mutualist banking and established a voluntary Bank of the People. His writings, along with those of Jefferson, Paine, and other early Americans, influenced the anarchist movement in the United States, including people like Josiah Warren, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker.

For the American anarchists, there was complete consistency between Jeffersonian federal republicanism and the Proudhonian concept of federalism. Proudhon’s federalism was a voluntary association of equal parties, just like the original relationship among the several American states. Proudhon writes: “a confederation is not exactly a state; it is a group of sovereign and independent states, associated by a pact of mutual guarantees.” [16] This echoes the concept of governance by consent which was so important to people like Jefferson. Both philosophers eschewed centralization and emphasized the importance of local autonomy, which is the only way to ensure that the federation remains voluntary.

The American tradition of decentralization produced a “republic of republics,” or a nation of nations, with a libertarian and individualist spirit. This voluntary mode of organizing laid the groundwork for Anarchist theory and practice to develop in the United States. Pragmatic aspects of American history also overlap with anarchist tendencies. The historic assertion of squatters’ rights by early American pioneers is one such example. Frontier settlers relied on what they identified as the “ancient cultivation law” to defend their claims of adverse possession [17]. This idea is identical to Proudhon’s argument about occupancy being ownership, and it is engrained in American history, which consists of a series of groups settling in a new place and hoping to live the way they choose. American history tells countless stories of Puritans, Quakers, Hutterites, Amish, Shakers, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and others seeking religious freedom and establishing intentional communities. These smaller, independent societies (spiritual or otherwise) represent the core of America’s original values.

Josiah Warren was intimately familiar with the process of establishing intentional communities based on values. Warren was involved with several different intentional communities, including New Harmony, Indiana; Utopia, Ohio; and Modern Times, New York. Some were more successful than others. New Harmony was actually started by Robert Owen, whose vision was much more collectivist than anarchist. As a direct result of his experience in New Harmony, Warren began to champion individual sovereignty [18]. In Utopia, Warren established a free market economy that relied on voluntary cooperation [19]. He wanted to live in a place where people could cohabit in a way that was unified but not coercive. While Utopia was still active, Warren decided to leave Ohio and purchase land in Long Island, New York. Starting from scratch (as opposed to reviving a disintegrating village as he did in Utopia), Warren sought to alleviate social problems like poverty and homelessness by facilitating efficient communal building projects [20]. In all of his tangible community enterprises, Warren conveyed a do-it-yourself anarchist initiative. He was concerned with practical tasks like working the land effectively, building homes for new residents, printing newspapers, and other concrete actions [21]. His approach is a crucial counterpart to the theoretical element of anarchism.

Warren’s practical American anarchism was not unique. Lysander Spooner, Warren’s contemporary, focused on direct action by challenging the federal government’s monopoly on postal services with an independent competitor, the American Letter Mail Company. [22] But Spooner was also an extremely intellectual anarchist. Rather than completely reject everything about the United States, Spooner used the Constitution and other founding documents to prove legal arguments about the despotic, hypocritical crimes of the U.S. government.

The historical context of the Civil War contributed greatly to Spooner’s anarchist perspective. Spooner was highly critical of the United States government for having betrayed the original Jeffersonian principles of the Declaration of Independence. Despite his strong disagreement with and activism against slavery, he fully supported the Confederate states’ right to secede. He criticizes the Civil War in No Treason: “Notwithstanding all the proclamations we have made to mankind…that our government rests on consent, and that [consent] was the rightful basis on which any government could rest, the late war has practically demonstrated that our government rests upon force — as much so as any government that ever existed.” [23] Spooner’s discussion of consent as the essence of republican confederation conveys the same idea as Jefferson’s earlier emphasis on the social contract in the Declaration of Independence.

Reflecting the earlier spirit of the American Revolution, Spooner devotes an entire chapter to the Declaration in his book The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. [24] He argues that the document is the legal foundation of American constitutionalism, and that it ensures the inherent freedom of all individuals (including slaves) by establishing “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as the core tenets of the nation. He emphasized the importance of the Second Amendment right to bear arms and connected it directly to a human being’s freedom. This was an essential element of his argument in defense of slaves owning or using weapons for their emancipation. Spooner wrote from the angle of a radical abolitionist, but he used the American political tradition to support his position.
Benjamin Tucker, under influence from Warren and Spooner (as well as Proudhon and Bakunin), represented American anarchism into the twentieth century. Like his predecessors, Tucker used American philosophical traditions to bolster his arguments for autonomy and independence. In an edition of his publication Liberty, he speculates that if Jefferson would be an anarchist if he were alive, [25] and in his book State Socialism and Anarchism he refers to anarchists as “unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats.” [26] Like Spooner, he bases his analysis on the social contract premise of American constitutionalism. The Declaration of Independence “declares that ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ it therefore follows that, when any individual is governed by a government without his or her consent, that government is exercising unjust powers, and is a usurpation.” [27]

Similarly to Jefferson, Tucker was a vehement opponent of centralized banking. He saw the financial monopoly of currency and banking by the state and large corporations as a form of usury. [28] He advocated the creation of Proudhonian peoples banks as a commonsense solution to the “money monopoly,” putting an end to exploitative practices without the use of force or state legislation. He also railed against the monopoly on land, arguing that occupancy and use constitute the only rightful titles to earth. [29] This echos the Proudhonian sentiment of occupancy as ownership as well as the early American “ancient cultivation law.”

Tucker understood the importance of voluntary defense organizations for the preservation of “self-liberty.” [30] He explains that such groups are the most successful method of providing actual protection for the people while dismantling the State’s monopoly on violence. [31] The best anarchist action is one that injures the State and simultaneously provides the people with an alternative. Tucker’s vision of private defense organizations differs slightly from the communitarian militia model of the second amendment. However, the two systems are compatible because of the decentralized and voluntary nature of both. The right of constitutional militias to abstain from national conflicts places them outside of the state’s monopoly on violence, just like Tucker’s private self defense associations.
Tucker, Spooner, and Warren understood that the American libertarian tradition was a source of both inspiration and potential support from the public. They did not become zealous reactionaries who vilified everything American, as some anarchists do today. Rather, they were more open in their perspectives and more fluid in their analyses. Nineteenth century American anarchists recognized that the true meaning of American nationalism was congruous with their anti-statist views.

This essay is in no way intended to suggest that any amount of government is necessary. However, voluntary systems of governance are instances of free association, and therefore not antithetical to anarchism. Voluntary free association can never be antithetical to anarchism, no matter how regulated or hierarchical the association may be. Local anarchist communities can sign treaties and participate in larger confederations without compromising the values of freedom and autonomy.
However, not everyone shares the values of freedom, autonomy, and the accompanying responsibility, and anarchists need to accept this. It is preposterous that anarchists would perceive the internal affairs of divergent tribes as any of their business. In a truly decentralized society, communities will not be identical, and some may be based on values that anarchists abhor. But harmony in this arrangement can be attained with the essential components of voluntarism, the non-aggression principle, and the right of non-participation. Just as individuals and tribes are entitled to associate with whomever they choose, individuals and tribes who do not wish to confederate have an equal right to abstain from such intercommunity relations.

That being said, a wide range of decentralists, including various anarchists, minarchists, secessionists, and others, could benefit far more from working with each other than they could from completely isolating or only associating with those who are exactly like them. Conflicts among the diverse proponents of local autonomy and individual autarchy (especially arguments that involve denouncing one another as “statist”) are a ridiculous way to waste time and accomplish nothing. The anarchism vs. minarchism debate is merely a question of degree. If minarchists are “statists,” then at what point do autonomous, voluntary community organization projects become “the state”? The state is not just any kind of organized social structure; it is a coercive monopoly on power.

Rather than focusing on disagreements, people with similar beliefs could be cooperating on projects that reflect their agreements. This is the nature of coalition building. It’s not about finding carbon copies of one’s group; it’s about collaborating with groups that are noticeably different but share some kind of common ground, no matter how small. By focusing on specific issues and endeavors rather than idealistic wishes for the entire world, diverse activist organizations can accomplish tangible goals even if society as a whole remains tainted. Anarchists should be pragmatic; a slow chipping away at the State is sometimes necessary and can often be more effective than drastic or violent revolutionary upheaval.
Action oriented contemporary anarchists, if they choose to look outside their dogmatic boxes, will find natural allies in the modern American patriot movement, which is quite averse to government encroachment on individual, family, and community rights. American patriots’ proclivity towards rugged individualism, self-sufficiency, and community self-defense, [32] combined with a populist anti-banking sentiment, are all very anarchistic elements as well. Local sovereignty and self-determination are crucial to both movements; it is only blatantly obvious that they should collaborate.

The nation is not the State; the people are the nation. Ward Churchill precisely conveys the misconceptions anarchists have about nationalism: “a…lot of anarchists…[think] they’re anti-nationalist, that…nationalism in all forms is…some sort of an evil to be combated… You may have nations that are also states, but you’ve got most nations rejecting statism. So…the assertion of sovereignty…is an explicitly anti-statist ideal, and the basis of commonality with…anarchists.” [33] From Churchill’s indigenous perspective, nationalism is in direct opposition to statism.

Consistent with Churchill’s view, the meaning of true American nationalism includes grassroots independence, libertarianism, individualism, populism, autarchy, agorism, and anti-imperialism. It allows for personal and collective freedom, and holds sacred the founding of intentional communities. It is Jefferson’s idea of a “republic of republics,” a decentralized nation of nations down to the most local levels. This is the very essence of American National-Anarchism. The United States was once a diverse confederation of regions with distinct identities—regional, ethnic, religious, etc. The states participated in the confederation voluntarily, and the broader umbrella of “American” did not negate their sentiments of local nationhood. Rather, choosing to call oneself an American added a rich ideological dimension to one’s existing identity.

The American identity is not based on war and dominance; it is not globalization, whose pervasive monoculture has been falsely termed “Americanization.” The global anti-culture propagates materialism, consumerism, and detachment from the earth. This is not the foundation of America. True American culture means complete decentralization, which results in rich heterogeneity and diversity. Towns and states in this country used to have unique character. Americans are just as negatively impacted by McDonaldization as the rest of the world. Despite this context, America’s philosophical and practical traditions can continue to provide the people with inspiration to resist the empire. Anarchists and patriots share this goal, even if they differ in opinion or lifestyle. Because of similar principles and aims, anarchist-patriot cooperation makes sense. The creation of an American National-Anarchist alliance would be a living example of a decentralized, independent grassroots society.

[1] Jefferson wrote to William Stephens Smith in 1787: “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without…a rebellion. […] What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. […] The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.”

[2] Articles of Confederation, Article II.

[3] Quoted in Van Doren, Carl. Indian Treaties Printed by Benjamin Franklin 1736-1762. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Philadelphia, 1938.
[4] Franklin, Benjamin. Letter to James Parker, 1751.
[5] He does not specify whether he means Iroquois.
[6] Adams, John. Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. Philadelphia: Budd and Bartram, 1797.
[7] Arthur, Stephen. “’Where License Reigns With All Impunity:’ An Anarchist Study of the Rotinonshón:ni Polity.”
[8] Paine, Thomas. The Rights of Man. 1792.
[9] Quoted in Van der Weyde, William M. “Thomas Paine’s Anarchism.” Mother Earth, 1910.
[10] Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to John Cartwright, 1824.
[11] Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to Gideon Granger, 1800.
[12] Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to Samuel Kerchival, 1816.
[13] Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to Samuel Kerchival, 1816.
[14] Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to John Cartwright, 1824.
[15] Simons, Algie Martin. Social Forces in American History. New York: Macmillan Co., 1911.
[16] Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph. The Principle of Federation. 1863.
[17] Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC., 1992.
[18] Josiah Warren, “From the March of Mind,” New Harmony Gazette 2, No. 46, September 10, 1828.
[19] Sartwell, Crispin, ed. The Practical Anarchist: Writings of Josiah Warren. New York: Fordham University Press, 2011.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Spooner, Lysander. The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress, Prohibiting Private Mails. New York: Tribune Printing Establishment, 1844.
[23] Spooner, Lysander. No Treason #1. 1867.
[24] Spooner, Lysander. The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. Boston: Bela Marsh, 1880.
[25] Tucker, Benjamin. Liberty Vol. II—No. 5. Boston, MA. December 9, 1882. Whole No. 31. Interestingly, Mexican revolutionary Enrique Flores Magon also said that Jefferson was an “anarchist of his time” (Wehling, Jason. Anarchist Influences on the Mexican Revolution.
[26] Tucker, Benjamin. State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, and Wherein They Differ. 1888.
[27] Tucker, Benjamin. Liberty Vol. II—No. 5. Boston, MA. December 9, 1882. Whole No. 31.
[28] Tucker said “Liberty, therefore, must defend the right of individuals to make contracts involving usury…and many other things which it believes to be wrong in principle and opposed to human well-being. […] In defending the right to take usury, we do not defend the right of usury” (Liberty Vol. I, No. 12 January 7, 1882.)
[29] Tucker, Benjamin. “Economic Rent.” Individual Liberty: Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker. Vanguard Press: New York, 1926.
[30] Tucker, Benjamin. Liberty Vol. XI—No. 13. New York, NY. November 2, 1895. Whole No. 325.
[31] Tucker, Benjamin. Liberty Vol. IV—No. 26. Boston, Mass. July 30, 1887. Whole No. 104.
[32] Defense associations and community militias have been organized by anarchists in other countries, from the volunteer militias of the Spanish revolution to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which is one of the best examples of a movement that combines anarchism and decentralized nationalism.
[33] Interview with Ward Churchill. Upping the Anti.