Anarchy = chaos
In common usage, the word ‘anarchy’ can have the meaning ‘chaos’ or ‘disorder’. This is not what anarchists refer to in the slightest. The word anarchy comes from the Ancient Greek root anarchos, which literally means the absence (an) of a ruler or leader (archos). This concept includes the absence of government, and, taking it further, the absence of hierarchical structure: in other words, an equal society. Anarchists believe that unquestioned and unchallenged authority is illegitimate: accepting authority just for the sake of authority, is a silly and dangerous way to organise a society.
‘The Anarchy’, a period of civil war in England in the 12th century, could have something to do with the negative connotation the word has. There is also a much more recent influence. The anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated the American President, William McKinley in 1901 and gave anarchists an even worse reputation than they already had at the time. Obviously, the powers that be do not look kindly on those who espouse anarchy, as it is a direct threat to their authority, and this has also has an influence on the common perception of the word.
Anarchists are unrealistic/utopian
Utopians, as I see it, believe the world can be changed to one which is flawless, and in which the ‘lion lies down with the lamb’ and such nonsense. Anarchists don’t believe that a perfect society will ever exist where there is no exploitation of any sort. What they do believe, is that anarchism will form the basis of a society which does not hold as its core principle, essentially, ‘exploit or be exploited’. We believe that exploitation can be reduced to almost negligible levels, where the only crimes committed are personal ones, crimes of passion. There will be no institutionalised crimes. We do not say that there will be no difficulty, no hard work; certainly there will be, but it will be done for the benefit of the society, shared out fairly, not for the benefit of one particular sector of society.
I do not believe anarchism is an unrealistic possibility. Although I can not deal with this in detail here, revolutions have obviously occurred in the past: the world is not static, it can change and it can change in many different directions. For anarchism to come about all it would take is a reasonably large number of people taking back their power in a number of ways (such as occupying factories and workplaces, refraining from voting, and generally dismantling hierarchical structures wherever they exist), and not necessarily all at the same time, as it can certainly be a gradual process. All we have to do is stop thinking that the world as it is, is the world as it will always be. Capitalism can (and should) have its downfall. The main reason I’m writing anything about anarchism is because I hope it will convince people to join the cause and eventually revolt, and the more people the better.
All anarchists are violent or espouse violence
I’m not sure if anyone actually believes this myth, but it certainly is one. Personally, I don’t believe that any anarchist that believes in physically hurting others is consistent. We can certainly take back what’s ours (our liberty) but we can’t take what’s not ours, which is another person’s right not to be violated in any way. We should be past thinking in ‘eye for an eye’ terms.
There is, however, the issue of property damage. Most anarchists, myself included, believe that this is legitimate if it is done carefully and furthers the cause of the reduction of exploitation and positive revolution. I don’t see how destroying property could be considered violence, except perhaps psychologically. (I am not talking about wanton destruction of people’s possessions, or smashing windows because it feels good: this is unnecessary and wasteful.) Obviously if the property can be put to the use of those who were exploited, all the better. And expropriating the expropriators (sorry if this sounds too Marxist) is perfectly justifiable. To hurt, economically, the perpetrators of injustice, as long as they know why, can be a good way to stop them from committing these injustices.
Anarchists don’t believe in progress/ are luddites
Some anarcho-primitivists don’t believe in technological progress, and desire to ‘turn back the clock’ to a hunter-gatherer society in a sustainable manner. Most anarchists, however, think technology is an incredibly useful tool, in the right hands. It can be used as a tool to cut the costs of labour, improve communication and generally enhance people’s lives, or it can be used by capitalists to extract more and more out of the environment and manipulate consumers for their own benefit.
Progress and change are precisely what anarchists want. It is probably the most progressive political ideology there is, in terms of what is envisioned and what must occur for it to be brought about.
Anarchists don’t believe in having possessions
In an anarchist society it is true that all production will be collectivised and therefore all property will be collective property. But this mainly refers to what would be considered ‘capital’ today, such as land, machinery, equipment etc. It is imagined that there would be no reason to restrict possessions – different people want and use different things, and as long as they were not wasting collective and scarce resources, there’s no reason why they couldn’t have these things, and others wouldn’t just be able to take them away. Once people have enough of the necessities of life (and then some) thievery would not occur, except in negligible and resolvable ways.
Anarchists are communists
Anarchism is a different political ideology and has a different historical tradition to that of communism. But nevertheless, they have many similarities. The truth is, there are many different types of anarchists. I am an anarcho-communist, so I believe that something like communism is the end goal. However, I disagree with communists in that I do not believe a communal society can be achieved through the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ (where the working class takes control of all means of production through revolution). I believe that this would simply lead to domination by the workers over the rest of society, or, more accurately, the workers would stop being workers and start being rulers. I also disagree with communists who believe that large-scale violence is the only way to revolution (such as Lenin). Anarchism also focuses more on personal liberty and freedom from all forms of coercion, while communism (especially Marxism) focuses on the activities of a particular class against another and does not have such a problem with coercion as long as its for the right reasons (i.e. they are more likely to accept states as legitimate whereas anarchists are fundamentally opposed to all states).
There are many other minor differences as well, but I will discuss these at a later time.
If anyone has any more suggestions for myths to (attempt to) debunk, please suggest them! Obviously this is not a complete list.
Please visit my site http://anarchism.tk/blog/ for more information.